Music of World War One

This section of the web site will attempt to to draw together information about the music, in particular songs, that were current during the period 1914-18. Many of these songs will have been written before this period; the composers may have been around for some time and will reflect those working across the genres of classical and popular.

Various web sites list songs and other musical events linked to particular years:

These web sites and many others can be used to research any individual or genre. My notes will be based on songs that I have collected which were in the possession of family members who were involved in the Great War.

Some of these are names that are very well known and played a significant role in the development of art music in the twentieth century. Others have been forgotten and indeed it has been very difficult to find out anything about some composers. Where there exists a Wikipedia article or other biographical information I have inserted a link. I have looked for recordings of the songs I have and have preferred older recordings by well known names to modern. Occasionally some songs have been recorded by outstanding singers of the modern era such as Bryn Terfel, but this is quite rare.

If I have noticed any specific mention of the Great War in a biography, I draw attention to it.

A Emmett Adams


He was an Australian composer who wrote the popular song 'The Bell's St Mary's' in 1917 after a visit to the church of that name in Southampton. The lyrics were by Douglas Furber; originally rejected by the publishers it became a big hit in the USA. One of the earliest recordings was made by Frances Alda, the colourful New Zealand born operatic soprano  who often accompanies Caruso on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.


1926 recording by Frances Alda

Stephen Adams (1841-1913)


This was the pseudonym of Michael Maybrick. His family were musicians based at St Peter's in Liverpool and Michael went on to study keyboard in Germany and singing in Milan. By the 1870s he was singing his own songs, most with lyrics by Fred Weatherly which often achieved great popularity.


Recording of Nirvana (1900) sung by Tom Isherwood


The Holy City sung by Harry Secombe in 1959

W A Aitken

He was a medical doctor as well as composer. He wrote 'Sigh no more', words by Shakespeare in 1911.

Frances Allitsen

Mary Frances Allitsen whose real name was Mary Bumpus was an English composer born in 1848 and died in 1912. She published around 50 songs and several orchestral pieces. She became especially well known as a singing teacher.

Recording of The Lute Player sung by Peter Dawson

Recording of The Lord is My Light (1897) sung by Marie Hunt

Edmond Audran


Achille Edmond Audran (1840-1901) was the composer of several successful operettas and considered one of the most talented of Offenbach's successors. After initial success in Paris his works were regularly performed under his supervision in London.


La Poupee, his last comic opera, from which 'A Jovial Monk' comes, was produced in London in 1897.

Recording of A Jovial Monk I Am (1897) sung by Peter Dawson



The first complete recording of Bizet's Carmen was made in 1908; it consisted of 18 double sided discs, some 10 inch others 12 inch. Playing speeds differed and the discs were bought separately, not as a set.


Enrico Caruso made his first recording in 1902 and released a further 290 up until 1920.


Record players were much sought after during the First World War. A Cambridge press report notes an appeal by a nurse in France for one to be dispatched to the hospital she is working in in France.


Song of the Toreador sung in 1901 by Emilio De Gorza : he was one of the first professional singers to record.


The Flower Song sung in 1905 by Caruso

May Brahe (1884 -1956)


She was an Australian composer, best know for her songs and ballads. 290 of her 500 songs were published, some under aliases such as Stanley Dickson. She was forced to do this as publishers were reluctant to publish more than four of her songs under her own name in any one year. She had established herself as a composer in London when she arrived in 1912 and rebrought her family to join her in 1914.


Recording of 'I passed by you window' (1916) made by Frances Alda in 1921.

I Passed By Your Window.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 36.5 MB

J M Capel

No information about this composer

Strangely the only recording of his apparently popular song 'Love, could I only tell thee' first recorded in 1909 and sung by the well-known C Hayden-Coffin, is this one by a male voice chorus!

Robert Coningsby Clarke (1879 - 1934)


It is difficult to locate much information about Robert C Clarke. His most famous song is The Blind Ploughman recorded amongst others by Paul Robeson and Fyodor Chaliapin.


The Blind Ploughman (1927) sung by Benjamin Luxom

Gerald Francis Cobb (1838-1904)

His most famous songs were setting of Rudyard Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor


An English composer of Creole descent who achieved great fame during his lifetime. He was helped by Edward Elgar and the premiere of Hiawatha's Feast was conducted by C V Stanford at its premier in 1898.


Big Lady Moon (1909) sung by Felicity Palmer

Eleanore (1909) sung by Henry Wendon

Onaway (from Hiawatha's Wedding Feat sung by Webster Booth

Frederic Hyman Cowen (1852-1935)

British pianist, composer and conductor. He wrote over 300 songs and many other orchestral works including four operas.

Border Ballad (1895) sung by Jose Mardones

Garnet Wolseley Cox (1874-1904)


He came from a military background but very little is readily available about his life and compositions.

Two known songs are 'Since my love' and 'The butterfly is in love,' both published in 1898.

D'Hardelot, Guy (1858-1936)


This was the pen name of Helen Rhodes (nee Helen Guy), a French composer and pianist. She was born at Chateau d'Hardelot to an English father and a French mother. She studied at the Paris Conservatoire where she met Gounod and Massenet. She was very successful song writer and yet it was some time before her true merit was realised.


Two performances of 'Because' (1902) performed by Caruso and Jussi Bjorling

A violin and organ arrangement of 'Wait' (1916)

Reginald de Koven (1859-1920)


He was an American composer, particularly of comic operas. He studied at St John's College Oxford and in Stuttgart. His song 'Oh Promise Me' was one of the biggest song successes of its time and remains popular at weddings. The melody may have been based on an aria by Stanislao Gastaldon, 'Musica Proibita'. In 1890 De Koven wrote his most successful comic opera, Robin Hood. After the opening night, the contralto playing Alan-a-Dale, Jessie Bartlett Davis, demanded a song to better show off her voice, threatening to walk out of the production. So the song 'Oh Promise Me' was inserted. It sold over a million copies in 1890.


Oh Promise Me sung (1887) by Gladys Swarthout in 1945

Francis Dorel


He wrote 'The garden of you heart'  (1914). The only known recording of this was made in 1916 by the tenor Charles Harrison for Columbia Records.

Frederick Drummond

He wrote 'Home that is calling for me' (1914).

Percy Elliott (1870-1932) in Dunstable


He wrote numerous songs including 'Mate o'mine' (1914)


Piano arrangement of Mate O'Mine by Philip Sear

Henry Ernest Geehl (1881-1961)


He was an English pianist, conductor and composer. He studied in London and Vienna and in 1919 joined the staff of Trinity College. He was well known for his arrangements for brass bands.


The song, 'For You Alone,' achieved great popularity, being recorded by Caruso, Lauritz Melchior, Jussi Bjorling and Mario Lanza.

For You Alone sung (1909) by Richard Crooks in 1924

For You Alone F.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 8.9 MB

Edward German (1862-1936)

He wrote prolifically for the stage and was seen as Arthur Sullivan successor in the field of English comic opera.

Glorious Devon (1905) sung by Peter Dawson

E. Carr Hardy

Your eyes have told me so (1908) sung by John McCormack

Hamilton Harty (1879 - 1941)


Born in Ireland, he moved to London aged 20 and became a distinguished piano accompanist. I composed a wide range of music and for 13 years was the chief conductor of the Halle Orchestra and a noted interpreter of Berlioz.

During WWI he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was posted for duties in the North Sea, rising to the rank of lieutenant.


Lane o'the thrushes (1907) performed by Isobel Baillie in 1945

Thomas Hewitt

The Grey North Sea 1915

John Ireland (1879-1962)


One of the most influential British composers of the 20th century, he began to make his name in the early 1900s as a composer of songs and chamber music. One of his early successes was the 2nd Violin Sonata completed in January 1917 and submitted to a competition organised to assist musicians in wartime.

Sea Fever (1913) sung by John Shirley-Quirk


The Bells of San Marie (1910) sung by Bryn Terfel


Sea Fever.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 12.5 MB

Carrie Minetta Jacobs-Bond 1862-1946


'A Perfect Day' was her greatest hit, released in 1910. This followed the parlor song, 'I Love You Truly' which made her the first woman to sell a million copies of a song. The difficulty she had finding publishers for her music lead to her founding her own sheet music publishing company, very unusual at the time.


A Perfect Day sung by Webster Booth (year unknown)


Harold Jenner

'Out Here In God's Garden' (1910)

Frederick Keel (1871-1954)

Keel was a composer of art songs, a baritone and an academic. He was an active member of the English folksong movement. During WWI he was interned at Ruhleben in Germany. He played an active part in the musical life of the camp and gave many recitals.

Trade Winds (1919) sung by Bryn Terfel

Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser (1857-1930)

The Road to the Isles (1917) sung by Harry Lauder in 1926

Edward Frank Lambert (1868-1925)

God's Garden (c. 1902) sung by Felicity Palmer

Emile Lassailly (1874-1917)

Sometime when I am far away (1917)

Franz Lehar 1870-1948

An Austro-Hungarian composer known for his many operettas of which the most successful and best know is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe).

Vilja (1907) sung by Maria Callas

I love you so (1907) sung by Frank Stanley and Elise Stevenson (1908)

Sidney Lennox

The Fairest Flower of All (1919)

Samuel Liddle (1868-1935)

Abide with me (1896) sung by Webster Booth in 1946 ; by Clara Butt in 1930

How lovely are thy dwellings (1908) sung by Webster Booth

How sleep the brave (1918) - this was sung at the Last Night of the Proms in 1918 as well as in prom concerts in 1919 and 1920.

Charles Marshall (1857-1927)

'I hear you calling me' (1908): this song was a best seller for the tenor John McCormack. Marshall, a struggling song writer at the time, visited McCormack at his lodgings and played him the piece.

Sung by John McCormack in 1911.

I hear you calling Ab.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.0 MB

Easthope Martin (1882-1925)

Four songs of the Fair (1912)

St Nicholas Day in the Morning (1915)

Three more songs of the Fair (1917)

Daisy McGeoch

Born Jessie Daisy McGeoch in Partick, Glasgow, she spent most of her life in the south of England and died in 1963. Two Eyes of Grey, which sold 100,000 copies, is her most famous work.


Two eyes of grey (1903) sung by Heddle Nash

Andre Charles Prosper Messager (1853-1929)


A prolific French composer whose output included 30 comic operas and operettas.


Trot Here and There (1904) sung by Marilyn Hill and Peter Morrison

Frank Lewis Moir (1852-1904)

Down the Vale (1896) sung by Felicity Palmer.

This was sung at two Proms concerts in 1900 and 1902.

Katie Moss (1881-1947)

Kate Emily Barkley Moss was a professional violinist, pianist and concert singer who studied at the Royal Academy of Music. The song, The Floral Dance, tells the story of an incident that actually happened to Moss herself on a visit to Helston and the song was reportedly written down directly afterwards as she was going home on the train.

The Floral Dance (1911) sing by Nelson Eddy in 1948; and by Peter Dawson in 1912

Moya (Harold Archdall Vicars) ( 1876-1922)

Harold Vicars was a British pianist, conductor and composer who conducted several Broadway productions in the 1910s. The Song of Songs was a big hit and was sung by Mario Lanza.

The Song of Songs (1914) sung in Joseph Laderoute in the mid 1940s and by Mario Lanza in 1951

Edward Murray

The Nights (1900)

Frederick Norton (1869-1946)

Norton wrote the music to Chu Chin Chow which achieved the then world record run of five years at His Majesty's Theatre and 2,238 performances.  It was written and produced by Oscar Asche, wife of actress Lily Brayton.

The Cobbler's Song (1916) sung by Peter Dawson

G O'Connor-Morris

Alleluia (1917)

Herbert Oliver

The Call (1915)

The Call.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 12.8 MB

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918)

Seven Songs (1909)

English Lyrics (1918)

Gerald Peel (1977-1937)


Bright is the Ring of Words (1907)

Arthur A Penn (1875-1941)

Smilin' Through (1918) sung by Donald Smith

and Reinald Werrenrath in 1919

More information about this famous song.

Montague Phillips 1885-1969


Sing Joyous Bird (1916) sung by Felicity Palmer

Albert Piantadosi (1882-1955)


It's easy for you to remember (1909)

R Raymond

I wonder why (1906)

Paul Alfred Rubens (1875-1917)

I love you ma cherie (1909)

Your King and Country Want You (1914) dedicated to HM The Queen sung by Edna Thornton

Landon Ronald (1873-1938)

Down in the Forest (1906) sung by Anne Ziegler in the 1940s

Fred Royle

A Song of Home (1918)

Kennedy Russell

Vale (1915)

Harold Samuel (1879-1937)

The top of the hill (1918)

Wilfrid Sanderson (1878-1935)

Gather ye Rosebuds (1903)

My Dear Soul (1906)

Beyond the dawn (1911)

The Voyagers (1912)

Friend o'mine (1913) sung by Albert Wiederhold (1915)

The Hills of Donnegal (1914)

Don't Hurry (1916)

My Dear Soul.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 13.6 MB

Victor Schertzinger (1888-1941)

Marcheta (1913) sung by Victor Marchese

Cecil Sharp (1859-1924)

Spanish Ladies (1910)

Walter Slaughter (1860-1908)

The Cap of Dunloe (1898)

The Dear Homeland sung by Peter Dawson

Henry Somerset, Lord (1849-1932)

Song of Sleep

All through the Night

Arthur Somervell (1863-1957)

Shepherd's Cradle Song sung by Sarah Leonard

Oley Speaks (1874-1948)

On the Road to Mandalay (1907) sung by Peter Dawson

About Kipling's poem.

William Henry Squire (1871-1963)

Three for Jack (1904) sung by Richard Bonelli

In an old fashioned town (1914) sung by Edgar Coyle

If I might come to you (1916) sung by Felicity Palmer

My Prayer (1919)

Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

Trottin' to the fair (1901) sung by John McCormack

Windy Nights (1914) for choir

A Soft Day Op. 140 sung by Kathleen Ferrier circa 1950

Thomas Case Sterndale Bennett (1882-1944)

He was grandson of the composer William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875)

Seven What-Nots (1915)

Oscar Straus (1870-1954)


My Hero (from The Chocolate Soldier) (1908) sung by Joan Sutherland

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)


Allerseelen (1907) sung by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau

Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)


A Wand'ring Minstrel I sung by Peter Emery


Take a pair of sparkling eyes sung by Webster Booth


Thou'rt Passing Hence sung by Peter Dawson


Once again


The Lost Chord (1877) sung by John McCormack

Take A Pair Of Sparkling Eyes.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 13.8 MB

Arthur Tate (1870-1950)


Somewhere a voice (1911) sung by John McCormack


Love's Devotion (1913)

Jack Thompson

Come Sing to me (1909)

Ralph Vaughan Williams 1872-1958

Vaughan Williams in 1914 at the age of 42 joined the RAMC as a private. He drove ambulance wagons in France and later in Greece. His friends considered that because of his age he must have found the work especially hard. Even so, in 1917 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and was in action in France from 1918. His hearing was damaged by the noise and lead to deafness in later years. After the armistice he was director of music for the British First Army until demobilisation in February 1919.


Silent Noon (1903) sung by Simon Keenlyside Johnson


Linden Lea (1912) sung by Bryn Terfel

William Wallace (1860-1940)

During World War One he served as inspector of ophthalmic units in Eastern Command with the rank of captain.


Son o'mine (1901)

Richard Henry Walthew (1872-1951)


The Gleaner's Slumber Song (1895)

Maude Valerie White (1855-1937)


Three Little Songs (1897)

Charles Willeby (1865- )


Crossing the bar (1903)


Coming Home (1914)

Crossing the Bar.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 11.5 MB

Haydn Wood (1882-1959)


Love's Garden of Roses (1914) sung by John McCormack (1918)


Roses of Picardy (1916) sung by Mario Lanza, and John McCormack

For background on this song follow this link. During WWI this song sold at the rate of 50,000 copies a month. After the war, the singing of this song was used to help soldiers suffering from shell shock to regain their power of speech.


It is only a tiny garden (1916) sung by Carmen Hill circa 1916

Amy Woodford-Finden (1860-1919)


Amelia Rowe War married Lieutenant-Colonel Woodforde Woodforde-Finden, a surgeon in the Indian Army in 1894 and it was in India that she wrote her most famous pieces: The Lover in Damascus and Kashmiri Song. She lost her husband in April 1916; she moved back to London and passed away in 1919, it is said, while composing at the piano.

Less than the dust (1902) sung by Peter Dawson


The Temple Bells (1902) sung by Webster Booth in 1943


Till I wake (1902) orchestral version


Kashmiri Song (1902) sung by Peter Dawson in 1932

A Lover in Damascus sung by Stewart Gardner