[Sheet music] A soldier's life

Accession Number RC11111
Collection number Sheet Music Collection 626
Collection type Published Collection
Measurement Overall - closed: 35.9 cm x 25.2 cm
Object type Sheet Music
Maker Reber, Carl
Date made c 1910
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.

Sheet music for the musical work titled 'A Soldiers Life', composed by Carl Reber. This largely instrumental piece is described on a First World War concert program as a “descriptive fantasia” and appears to have been first published in 1900. Different sections of the notation reveal different scenes in the life of a soldier with only the chorus having lyrics. This piece has been inscribed 'Dedicated to those whose lives are here represented'. This copy was published by Bayley & Ferguson, London and sold for 3/-.

This piece is the first piece composed as part of a series of twelve musical illustrations, composed by Reber, titled 'Life Pictures'. Other titles in this series include 'A Sailor's Life', 'A Farmer's Life', 'A Fisherman's Life', 'A Bellringers Life', 'A Huntsman's Life', 'A Monk's Life', 'A Gypsy's Life', 'A Showman's Life', 'A Cotton-Picker's Life', 'A Chorister's Life' and the final piece, 'The Shepherd's Life'.This copy shows a circle containing the names of every piece in this series on either side of the front cover with a banner containing the words 'Life Pictures' unfurled above. A description of the series appears underneath the banner reads 'A series of twelve musical illustrations. Each piece is very descriptive of its title, and being founded on popular melodies combines instruction with pleasure. They are carefully fingered and will therefore be of the utmost value for teaching from.' On the back cover is an advertising preview of the final piece in the series ' A Shepherd's Life'.

Some of the melodies that have been incorporated into this work are 'Let me like a soldier fall', 'Soldier's Chorus' and 'The British Grenadier's'. The music describes several scenes that are pertinent to the life of a soldier including being in a camp, sitting around a fire and an alarm being raised during the night while soldiers are sleeping.

Carl Reber was known for his descriptive pieces and wrote a series of these works under the title "Life Pictures" which included 'A Soldier's Life'. His most famous piece was titled 'Remembrance', and most of his music was published in London between 1908 and 1916. The National Library of Australia has the largest collection of his music in the world - with 17 pieces in total. It is believed that the name 'Carl Reber' is a pseudonym in some circles. There is a copy of one of his works held by the National Library of Australia with the name 'Cyril Stafford' as the composer on the front cover. Some of Reber's other works include: 'The Slave's Dream', 'Ellan Vannin', 'The Fire Brigade', 'The Emigrant Ship', 'Country Scenes', 'A Summer Song', 'An evening meditation' and 'Autumn Fancies'. Another series of musical works that he produced were based on popular airs and was titled 'Good Company'.

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

There appears to have been multiple pieces of musical works with this title that were performed during the First World War period. It is not known whether all performances were of the same piece or whether they were adaptations of the original work.

This piece of music was performed by the 1 Australian Division Pioneer Battalion Band at a concert by The Sentimental Blokes concert party, in Belgium during 1918. The Sentimental Blokes were also part of 1 Australian Division and this piece was described as a 'descriptive fantasia' on the program.

Some returned soldiers established bands on returning to Australia after service with the Australian Imperial Force. Among these bands were the Anzac Memorial Band and the Gallipoli Memorial Band. On 16 November 1916, the piece featured in a concert by the Anzac Memorial Band at the School of Arts, Sydney. The purpose of the concert was described by Sergeant Myall as ‘to assist returned wounded soldiers who were unable to help themselves’ and ‘widows and dependents of those who had fallen in action’. The piece titled ‘A soldier’s life’ was described by the Coffs Harbour Advocate as the ‘star’ in the concert program, with the report continuing to say that it ‘was rendered with perfect harmony and execution’. The Anzac Memorial Band also performed this piece at a concert in the Strand Theatre at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, on 15 January 1917. The Daily Advertiser newspaper reported that this piece appeared in the second half of the program where it ‘evoked considerable appreciation’. The Gallipoli Memorial Band also performed ‘A soldier’s life’ during a concert at Cairns on 6 August 1918. The Cairns Post described it as a ‘descriptive fantasia’ and reported the synopsis as: ‘Allegro Renaile, Orders for Abroad Allegro, The Girl I left behind, Embarkation, Andante, Rocked in the cradle of the deep, Allegro Vivace. Sailor’s Hornpipe. The Storm. Adagio. Prayer during the Storm. Tempo di Valse. Fine Weather Again, Allegro, The Landing. Tempo di Marcia, Advance of the Grenadiers. Advance of the Scottish Regiment. Lights Out. Andante Moderato (night). Alarm in the Distance. Commence Firing. Allegro, The Battle Victory. Finale. See the Conquering Hero Comes.’

This piece of music was also popular at fundraising events in Australia during the First World War period. A patriotic concert was held at the Albany Town Hall on 2 September 1914 to raise money for the fund providing comforts to the troops, possibly the Australian Comforts Fund. An Albany band, under bandmaster Max O’Neill, played ‘A Soldier’s Life’ which depicted ‘scenes from the reveille to the battle and grand finale’, as reported in The Albany Advertiser on 5 September 1914.

This was also a very popular piece with bands in Australia during the First World War period. The City of Prahran Band, under conductor Mr E T Code, performed this piece as part of a patriotic concert on 17 September 1914. The Melbourne newspaper, Table Talk, reported on this on 24 September 1914, with the comments ‘with the anthems and stirring national melodies of each country interwoven, were well calculated to touch the sympathetic chords of the hearts of all present’. The band of the New South Wales Lancers also played this piece, again attributed to Sheriff, at a concert at the Liverpool training camp on 18 April 1915. The Bunbury Band performed this piece at the Harvey Town Hall, Western Australia on 2 June 1915, with the Southern Times newspaper reporting that the song had ‘brilliant effects’ and received ‘repeated rounds of applause’. The Metropolitan Band performed this piece during a series of matinee concerts at the Sydney Town Hall. The first of these was held at 3pm, 13 June 1915. This continued to be a popular piece with bands during 1916 including another performance by the Metropolitan Band at the Sydney Town Hall on 30 July 1916.

Performances of this piece continued by local bands at various events into 1918 and 1919. One of these performance was by the Bathurst District Band on 21 July 1918. The writer of the report of this concert in The Bathurst Times reported that he had ‘never heard it given better’. A piece with the same name but inclusive of different passages was performed by the Albany Brass Band on 9 January 1919 in the Albany Town Hall. The report of the concert in The Albany Advertiser, gave the following description of the piece, “the synopsis of the piece was illustrative of the doings of a soldier from his first morning in camp, when the reveille is sounded at daybreak. Then comes scenes described musically of camp life, embarkation, the weighing of the anchor, good-bye, and incidents at sea. Then the landing, advance into action, the battle, and victory, followed by the return to the strains of ‘Johnny comes marching home’ and ‘Home, sweet, home’. In addition to the musical arrangements, realism was leant by cleverly executed effects, and the whole piece reflected careful training and study and was well worthy of the hearty demonstration which followed the grand finale.”