[Sheet music] So-Long: March-Song

Accession Number RC10778
Collection number Sheet Music Collection 293
Collection type Published Collection
Measurement Overall: 36 cm x 27 cm
Object type Sheet Music
Maker Summerbelle, May
Barr, John
Date made 1914
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Recording provided for personal, non-commercial and commemorative use. Permission from copyright holder must be sought for commercial use. Attached digital images provided for personal non-commercial use

Sheet music for the song titled 'So-Long', with lyrics written by John Barr and music composed by May Summerbelle, originally published in 1914 at the time of the outbreak of the First World War. This copy of the music features a brown cover with black lettering and sold for 1/6. On the top left hand corner is a colour insert of the Australian red ensign flag alongside a dedication to Australia's Expeditionary Forces, and an accompanying note stating the song was ‘played by the Principal Bands of the Commonwealth.'

The lyrics for the song are typed in the fashion of a poem on the inside front cover with five verses appearing underneath the dedication 'So-Long: To Australia's Expeditionary Force'. A handwritten inscription, written in pencil, notes the music was held by the 2nd Light Horse Band and played on 17 May 1915 as the troops were leaving Cairo. Inside the back cover is a list of other compositions written by Summerbelle, which mentions that the song 'So-Long' was sung by Sydney Macdonald. Summerbelle performed this song with Sydney Macdonald at the Concordia Club in Sydney on 10 September 1914, where it received two encore requests. The lyrics were written for the 20,000 volunteers leaving Australia, and mentions that when the war is over, they will all be wanted back home in Australia. The song was described by The Daily Telegraph on 1 January 1916, as having a 'well-pronounced martial spirit.'
In a letter dating from March 1931, Summerbelle wrote about the origins of this song, stating 'All great wars inspire music and poetry, and in its own way 'So-Long' (one of the first of the war songs) was the outcome of the tremendous patriotic flame that swept Australia...adding in its small way to the general feeling of enthusiasm to the land of Australia.' In the same letter, she reported that this particular copy had 'gone all through the war', and was one of two thousand copies distributed to the troops as they marched to its strains through the city streets in Sydney.

May Summerbelle was a well-known Australian composer at the time of the First World War. Her works were performed by the likes of John Phillip Sousa, John McCormack and Dame Nellie Melba amongst others. Summerbelle was a student of the French-Australian composer, Alice Charbonnet-Kellermann, who also taught piano to Melba. The Australian Worker on 22 April 1915 reported that Melba and other esteemed musical artists paid tribute to ‘Miss Summerbelle’s genius, which, in an older country, would from that vantage point, be very much more widely spoken of and known than can be the case from Australia.' Summerbelle also wrote the song titled 'Wanted for the Fighting Line', with lyrics written by Will M. Fleming, during the early years of the First World War. In 1924, she left Australia with over one hundred musical compositions to her name, one of which had been selected for the British Empire Exhibition in London.

The lyricist of ‘So-long’, John Barr, was a journalist with The Bulletin in Sydney.

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].

History / Summary

The song titled 'So-Long' was popular in Australia and with Australian personnel serving overseas during the First World War. It was played by the 2nd Light Horse Band to farewell the Machine Gun section when they departed Cairo on 17 May 1915. Oliver Hogue writing under the pen name Trooper Bluegum wrote of this occasion in an article published by The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 June 1915, when they '...farewelled the machine gun sections of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, and the rest of us cheered wildly as the gunners marched off. The band played "Auld Lang Syne" and "So-Long"...'

The 6th Light Horse Band is believed to have also played the song while en route to the Dardanelles. Indeed according to The Daily Telegraph, the 6th Light Horse Band included all of her musical works in their concert programs during the First World War and Australian soldiers 'marched to their ships to the strains of her patriotic settings'.

According to Summerbelle, this song was played during special band recitals and at Sunday concerts for Australian troops while stationed at the Liverpool training camp, Sydney. She also remarked in a letter at the time that ‘So-long’ was donated, and was performed by prominent musical artists of the period.