Henry James Metcalfe


1835 - 1906



The punctuation and layout of the titles has not been changed to any extent. Especially, the spellings ‘amateur’ and ‘amatuer’ occur pretty well interchangeably in the various copies of the Musical Express we have examined so far.  Both forms occur in this article…






A short sketch of the career of Mr. H. J. Metcalfe, may perhaps, be found useful, as to shewing the part which he has taken in reference to the advancement of Brass Bands and to the many urgent require­ments which, he subsequently supplied them with, indeed, in the matter of “Dance Music”, it has justly been said, that he fairly “lifted” the brass bands out of the greatest obscurity in that respect, and set the pattern from which all others copied, however, we will now proceed and hope our readers will derive some amount of satisfaction, in finding that they are placed in a more favourable position than were their brethren of thirty years ago


About the year 1857, at which time Mr. H. J. Metcalfe, then a very young man, left “the service” in Ireland, and proceeded to his native city, London, where he remained for a short time, when he was persuaded by his mother and brothers, who had re­moved to Walsall, Staffordshire, to repair to that town, so that they might all live near each other. This advice Mr. Metcalfe, after some hesitation accepted, and he arri­ved and settled in Walsall, in the latter part of the same year 1857—at which time there had not been a band in the town for twenty-two years, and being urged by many people, started the “Walsall Brass Band” in that year. All the music had to be writ­ten by hand, there were no Amatuer Band Journals even then, and as the band advan­ced in proficiency, they were invited out to parties, where the usual request was to play some “dance music.” At this time we had to get pianoforte, or string band music, and arrange it for brass bands, nothing in the line of Quadrilles, or Valses, having up to that time been composed expressly for them, which made things very awkward, as both the compass and style of pianoforte or violin is at complete variance to the cor­net, causing runs to be broken, and some­times whole strains to be left out in order to make the pieces playable by brass instru­ments, and one circumstance connected with the affair used to bother the leaders of the bands terribly, and that was—the difference in the quadrilles—first set, Caledonians, Lancers, Victories, Kents, Parisians, etc., etc. Some one would come to the leader and ask for the first set of Quadrilles to be played. Well, scarcely any of the leaders knew how to dance quadrilles, nor how many times through to play the figures, consequently they would just play the first figure as long as they thought fit, or until some of the dancers would run up to them and tell them to stop, telling them to play the "first set." Then the leader would turn his book over and ask if they (the dancers) could tell them which were the “first set,” many of the leaders thinking the dancers meant the first set of quadrilles that were ever composed. Enquiries used to be made from fiddlers who played at dances, and these would recommend some one set, and some the other, “The Rats” quadrilles by Redler being great favourites about that time, as were Margaret D'Anjon—Agnes Sorel—Joan of Arc--and several others of Le Duc's and Bohlmans, all of which, how­ever, whilst fairly playable by string bands or professional brass bands were too 'heavy' and difficult for amateurs, especially to keep up for any length of time, consequently amateur bands, were looked down upon by the dancers and it was generally said that brass bands, even in the open air, were no good for dancing. Things continued thus until 1861 when Mr. H. J. Metcalfe, Snr. [see note below - NF] then removed to Wolverhampton, and hav­ing been at a ball where there was a string band, the idea struck him, why not com­pose some quadrilles “specially” for brass bands, the same as the string writers com­pose to suit string instruments, and “strik­ing the iron whist it was hot,” he immediately hurried off home, and before sleeping that night, had completed two figures, the next day the other three were added, and the “Gentle Annie” quadrille was in ex­istence. Having arranged them for the band, he, with fear and trembling, produced them the next night at practice. They were played right away, without any struggling at awkward runs, and top notes, as had formerly been the case, and Mr. Metcalfe received a regular ovation. They were the prettiest and best set of quadrilles ever composed, said the bandsmen, (they tell him this every time he produces a fresh piece, if it is easy, and has plenty of tune in it) and our readers may be sure he returned home again that night quite elated, with the result of this, his first experiment in composing quadrilles “specially” for brass bands, an undeniable and complete success.


On the following Monday, the band be­ing engaged at a fete, where there were four other bands, the new quadrille was put to the test, and as many of the THEN “popular airs” had been produced, they created a perfect FURORE amongst the dancers, and very soon every band in the country were playing these, seeing at a glance that the dancers would take just as kindly to music newly composed “specially to suit Brass Bands” as they did to the adaptations of the string music then in vogue. Mr. Met­calfe then brought out in quick succession, the “Summer” quadrille —the “Prarie Flower” quadrille - “Bob Ridley” quadrille the “Ella Leene” quadrille—the “Merri­mac” quadrille the “Hazel Dell” quad­rille—the “Monitor” quadrille—the “Fredericksburg” quadrille—the “Ari­zona” quadrille the “American Star” quadrille—the “Sensation” quadrille the  “Pretty little Sarah” quadrille—the “Annie Lisle” quadrille—the “High Holborn” quad­rille—besides various other pieces of dance music, it may be as well to remind our readers that at that time the only set of Lancer-Quadrilles in existence was the old original Lancers, as they were called. Now having had such a splendid success with his other quadrilles, Mr. Metcalfe decided to try his hand at “the Lancers,” but as these quad­rilles had never been danced to any other than one set of tunes (most excellent ones) and the dancers were so used to them, that they often used to say no other tunes would ever do for them but those composed for the dance at time it was invented. How­ever, “faint heart never won fair lady,” says the old adage, and on these lines Mr. Metcalfe proceeded, and very soon the “Cavalier” Lancers appeared, and was so well received that he shortly followed them with the “Victoria” Lancers—the “Richmond” Lancers—the “British” Lancers, and the “Loyalist” Lancers, in addition to the above, three new sets of quadrilles were brought out about this time, called respectively, the “Victorian” (with six figures), the “Kent” (six figures) and the “Pickwicks,” for these Mr. Metcalfe composed, the “Royal Victorias” quadrille, the “Maid of Kent” quadrille, the “Duchess of Kent” quadrille, the ‘Royal Pickwicks’ quadrille and the “Ball Room” Pickwick quadrilles. The above quadrilles are entirely different to the ordinary quadrille, the “Victorias” and “Kent,” having Valses, Polkas, and cornet cadenzas, the “Pickwicks,” being very “quaint” and ancient in style.


The sets above spoken of had an original set of tunes composed for violin, but not only did Mr. Metcalfe's sets which he composed for Brass Bands please the bandsmen, but they speedily “knocked out” the “ori­ginal” sets, which they superseded entirely, and all the “String Bands” now began to “adopt” Brass Band music in preference to their own for these special sets, and we may here remark that not only did Mr. Metcalfe place the “Brass Bands” on an equality with the “String Bands” as re­gards quadrille music, but brought out in the intervals many other favorite pieces of dance music, amongst which we may men­tion the following :— “The Bells” prize polka—the “Florence” polka—the “Brass Band” polka—the “Ladies” polka—the “Albert Edward” polka—the “Catherine” polka—the “Waterfall” polka—the “Vol­unteer,” polka—the “Clara” polka - the “Mountain Sylph” polka—the “Old Maids” polka—the “Fusilade” solo polka —the “Life Guards” solo polka—the “Feu de Joie” solo polka—the “Silver Star” schottische—the “Queen of Day” schottische—the “Ball Room” schottische—the “Lavender Girl” schottische —the “Clydesdale” schottische—the “Fairy Queen” schottische—the “Star of De Vere” schottische - the "Fairy Glen" varsoviana—the “Village Belle” varsoviana—the “Juliette”—varsoviana—the “Great Eastern” prize varsoviana—the “Victoria” varsoviana—the “Pulestonvarsoviana—the “Anne” mazurka—the “Lily” mazurka —the “Riggollette” mazurka—the “Even­ing Star” valse —the “Prarie Bird” valse —the ‘Border Flower’ valse —the ‘Echoes from Fairyland ‘ valse—the ‘Royal Escort’ galop—and “ Merrie Bells” galop—etc., besides quicksteps, slow marches, fantasias, selections, and other pieces. All the above and numerous other pieces were composed, and issued between 1861 and 1867, at which time, seeing that the brass bands were well up with all descriptions of dance music in general use, and as far as music went, able to hold their own in competition with string bands, especially in out-door engagements, Mr. Metcalfe set himself to find out if there was not some other kind of music wanted by the brass bands, and found that there was no publishers in England, who published “Christmas Music,” such as Christmas Anthems, Choruses, suitable Christmas Hymns, etc., and knowing a bandsman’s love of a good "rolling bass," immediately set to work and sent forth his first “Christmas Number” of sacred music suitable for Christmas playing, the old “sing-song,” drowsy psalm or hymn tunes being cast aside, and the lively joyful pieces at once properly arranged and made use of. Our readers well know the merits of “Metcalfe’s Christmas Music," which, although


the other publishers sell their Christmas numbers at, yet after all Metcalfe's music holds the field against all comers and it is just as well to remind our readers that like the introduction of specially composed dance music for brass bands, so with the Christmas music, as Messrs. Metcalfe pub­lished “Christmas Music” for seven or even eight years before any other publisher attempted to follow our lead.


Wherever a want has been found to exist in connection with the amatuer bands of this country, that want we have set our­selves to fill. That Mr. Metcalf has not rested on his oars since the above mentioned list of music was composed, may be inferred from a perusal of the subjoined list of his later compositions, to which he is constantly adding new pieces, many of Mr. Metcalfe’s “old subscribers” will recognize many an old friend, from amongst the following:- The Lord of Lorne, quadrille—the Queen of May, quadrille—the Universe, quadrille - the Belle Mahone, quadrille— The Sahara quadrille--the Furore quadrille—the it Il Trovatore quadrille—the Mulligan Guards quadrille the -Pretty Little Bessie quadrille —the Little Blue Eyes quadrille—the Jolities quadrille—the Old Ireland quadrille —the Royal English quadrille—the Royal Welsh quadrille—the Royal Scottlish quadrille- the King of the Mashers quadrille—the Queen of the Mashers quadrille —the Beauties of Balfe quadrille—the Rosabel valse - the Queen of the Ocean valse -  the Lily Queen valse—the Still Thine Own valse —the Songs of the Season valse—The Sweet Violets valse—the Dreams of Beauty Valse —the Le Bon Diable polka—The Æsthetic polka—the Our Carries polka— the Best Out polka—the Volunteer schottische—the Sweet Home schottische - the Queen of Scots schottische—the Heather Queen schottische—the Mountain Maid schottische —the Primrose Dell schottische—the Daisy Bell schottische, etc., etc.


Were we to proceed with the list of Mr. Metcalfe’s compositions to the end, this paper would contain little else, therefore we close this article without reference to the scores of Quicksteps, Marches, Fantasias, Selections, Overtures, Christmas Anthems, etc., of which Mr. Metcalfe is the author merely remarking that such pieces as—Hosts of Angels - Loud the Mighty Hosts Proclaim - List The Angels - Millions on Millions Grandly Sang - Glory to the New Born King - Merrie England - Bonnie Scotland - Cambrian Echoes - Erin-go-Brah - The Congress - Semiramide - Maritana - Bohemian Girl - Hugomont - Quatre Bras - Verdi’s Works - Talavera - and countless other pieces will bear testimony to his ceaseless and untiring energy and persistence.


Note: H J Metcalfe’s fourth child and eldest son Henry James Hugh Metcalfe was born 3rd November 1865, and by 1888 had been working for his father for some time, as had other children.  The business was styled Henry Metcalfe, Sons & Co. So H J Metcalfe was Henry Senior, and his son was Henry Junior.  








Uploaded 28th June 2007.