[Sheet music] But a short time to live

Accession Number RC10699
Collection number Sheet Music Collection 214
Collection type Published Collection
Measurement Overall: 32 cm x 25 cm
Object type Sheet Music
Maker Russotto, Leo
Coulson, Leslie
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Attached digital images, content and recording are protected by copyright. It is reproduced here for research and study only. If you wish to use or quote from this recording and images, please contact the Memorial’s Research Centre via info@awm.gov.au or 02 6243 4315.

Handwritten manuscript music for the song titled 'But a Short Time to Live', with lyrics written by Leslie Coulson and music composed by Leo Russotto. The cover of this copy features a hand-painted hourglass on the cover. It is not known when the music was composed, however, the piece was first performed by Eleanor T. Cahill on 16 June 1944.

The lyrics for this song are actually a poem written by British poet Leslie Coulson, who was wounded during the Battle of Le Transloy and died on 8 October 1916. The poem was later set to music by Leo Russotto and dedicated to Captain Reginald Hugh Knyvett by the officers and other ranks of the 27th American Division, who were attached to the 2nd and 4th British Armies in 1918. Page five of the sheet music incorrectly states that Leslie Coulson served with the Australian Expeditionary Forces.

Knyvett served with the Australian Imperial Force with the 7th Battalion, 57th Battalion and 59th Battalion in Egypt and France. He was wounded in action in November 1916, and repatriated to Australia in April 1917. He subsequently returned to the front at his own expense before departing for America, where he married Lillian Maude and was granted a commission as captain. In this role he delivered lectures and assisted with recruitment in America prior to his death in New York on 15 April 1918. At this time he was also working on his book 'Over there with the Australians', published posthumously in 1918. A statue of him was commissioned in Chicago during 1923 and presented to his mother in Brisbane.

Leo Russotto was an American pianist, vocal coach and composer who also wrote the music for the Broadway show 'The Winter's Tale', which ran from 14 January to 16 February 1946. He was the first vocal director of Radio City Music Hall in New York, and was a pianist for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) from 1931 to 1943. He died in California in late January 1978.

Towards the bottom of this page is a sound recording of this sheet music, or a parody, that was created as part of the Music and the First World War project. More information about this recording, including names of the performers, can be found on the catalogue record for the sound recording. A link to the catalogue record for the sound recording can be found at the bottom of this page, under the heading ‘Related objects’ where it can be identified with the prefix [sound recording].