Reginald Alberto Agrati Stoneham was born 1879 at Carlton, Victoria, to parents William Stoneham and Ellen Stoneham (née Wilson). William Stoneham has been referred to as one of the earliest professional orchestral musicians in Australia, and his obituary refers to him as a professor of Music. Reginald and his siblings grew up with significant musical educations; a number of his brothers and at least one of his sisters were all performers in their own right, and in 1894 Reginald began performing with, among others, his brothers Harry and William as the Orpheon Quintet Party.
In 1900 he enlisted in the South Australian Imperial Contingent and served in the South African War as a Trumpeter in the 4th South Australian Imperial Bushmen. In a letter that Reginald wrote to his brother Harry, excerpts from which were published in The Herald (Melbourne), Reginald describes his war experiences . These included receiving “a scratch in the stomach at Slobet’s Nek with a soft nosed bullet”, and almost becoming a victim of friendly fire when a sentry decided to shoot before challenging his approach. In April 1901 he returned to Australia, invalided after a fall from a horse left him with weakness in his leg and ankle. Shortly after his return to Australia he was married to Adelaide Minnie Lyons in South Australia.
After the start of the First World War, Reginald began composing music in earnest, writing dozens of pieces, many of them patriotically supporting the war effort and promoting enlistment; they include “H eroes of the Dardanelles”, “Pride of the Nation”, “Fight for the King”, and “The Attack” (on Zeebrugge ). Some of these, “Heroes of the Dardanelles” in particular, were frequently performed at recruiting campaigns and rallies. Towards the end of the war, he began composing songs of celebration, joyous at the prospect of the end of the war: “The Bells of Peace” and “Peace and Glory”. These songs sustain Stoneham’s enthusiasm and bravado expressed in his previous songs; at no point does he meaningfully lament the cost of the war.
His next major endeavour would be to compose the music for the 1920 production F.F.F.: an Australian mystery musical comedy, a performance in which the mystery is the meaning of the title itself. The show received mixed reviews; one in The Argus (Adelaide) described unfavourably the comedic aspect of the performance, while simultaneously applauding the songs contributed by Stoneham. Despite a successful season in Adelaide, the show went no further.
Though he continued composing throughout the 1920s, the decline of sales of sheet music, and the difficulty Stoneham faced in adapting to the rising medium of radio, as well as ill health and the need to care for his invalided wife and daughter, led him to apply for bankruptcy in 1936. Throughout the 1930s he appears to have released only seven pieces of music.
Reginal Alberto Agrati Stoneham died in March 1942. His funeral was well attended, especially by representatives of music societies, and though there were no pallbearers, he was buried with the ritual of the Returned Services League.