[Sheet music] The singing soldiers

Accession Number RC10983
Collection number Sheet Music Collection 498
Collection type Published Collection
Measurement Overall: 36 cm x 25 cm
Object type Sheet Music
Maker White, Howard
Dennis, Clarence James
Place made Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Date made c 1917
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 'The Singing Soldiers', with lyrics written by Clarence James Dennis and music composed by Howard White. Three verses from the poem of the same name, published by Dennis in the Sydney Morning Herald in early 1916, were set to music by Howard White. The song opens with an observation from an Australian soldier in the trenches that they are always singing before moving to musings from someone at home as to why this is so. The lyrics end with commentary about how Australian soldiers will either return to Australia or enter the 'Gates of Paradise'.

White was a British composer who composed the song after reading the poem in a copy of Dennis' book 'The Moods of Ginger Mick', that he recieved for Christmas in 1916. He immediately decided that it should be converted into a song. White selected the first, sixth and thirteenth stanza of the poem to form the lyrics and incorporated 'Bonny Mary of Argyle', 'Its a long way to Tipperary', 'God save the King', and 'Australia will be there', into the music. Apart from 'God Save the King', all of these songs are mentioned in the original poem. The first performance of the poem set to music occurred at the Auditorium in Melbourne on Saturday 28 July 1917.

Dennis was an Australian poet who also worked as a journalist at 'The Herald' in Melbourne and wrote feature articles for 'The Weekly Times'. Twelve of the fourteen poems in his well-known collection 'The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke', were first published in 'The Bulletin' between 1909 and 1915.

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, 'The Singing Soldiers' was a success with the audience at its first and subsequent performances. Advertisements for the sheet music began appearing in Australian newspapers following a farewell concert for Mr Howard White and Madame Evelyn Scotney at the Tivoli Theatre, Melbourne on Saturday 15 September 1917. The first advertisement for the sheet music appeared in the Donald Times newspaper on Friday 28 September 1917, and advised that anyone who had read the poem would want a copy of the sheet music.

Recitations of the poem continued to be popular however, following the release of the sheet music, at concerts in Australia during the First World War. One of these recitations was given by Private Jack Dillon, with the New Gallipoli Comedy Company, at Port Elliot, on Monday, 14 January 1918. Another was given by Miss D Woolnough during a Red Cross concert at Telowie on Wednesday 28 January 1918. Recitations of the poem were also popular at welcome home concerts for returned soldiers including an event held in honour of Private Barkus at Panmure Hall on Thursday 21 March 1918.

The poem also featured in a concert by 1 Australian Headquarters Pierrot Troupe, the ANZAC Coves. The poem was recited by James Thomas Gibb, a monologist, who served with the 7th Field Ambulance before joining the Anzac Coves. The performance was held at Jubilee Hall in Weymouth, England on 21 February 1918.