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by Philip Scowcroft


Sport is entertainment and so is music, especially in its lighter forms. Therefore it is natural that both interact on one another. A band was, at one time, a regular feature of football and cricket matches while all television and radio sporting features have their own distinctive title music. Most present day programmes have pop-inspired tunes although some have enjoyed surprising longevity such as Hubert Bath's march Out of the Blue for Sports Report and Charles Williams' The Challenge for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Other melodies from the classic 1950s era of 'production music' derived from publishers' recorded music libraries which had sporting titles but were never adopted as regular signature themes. These included Robert Farnon's Sports Challenge, Sidney Torch's International Sports and Jack Beaver's Spotlight on Sport. For major events like World Cups it has become the practice to adapt a classical tune to introduce television coverage and we all now know Puccini's Nessun Dorma and Fauré's Pavane better for their sporting associations.

What of individual sports in a musical context? Some still have only a few tunes about which to boast. Examples include Edward White's Tour de France (cycling), Ron Goodwin's The Trap (London marathon), Roger Barsotti's Motor Sport, Beaver's Yacht Race, Simon May's Howard's Way (sailing), Waldteufel's Skaters Waltz (winter sports) and for Ski Sunday, Pop Looks Bach.

Hunting in music goes back centuries with Vivaldi, Haydn, Weber, Berlioz. Johann Strauss and Thomas Dunhill's 1930s operetta Tantivy Towers providing some examples. Football inspired one or two songs in Victorian days (a report of a match brought a two bar theme from Elgar in 1898) and then supporters started to make up encouraging songs, borrowing the music from wherever they could find it.

In the production music era, Barsotti wrote Football Fanfare and Beaver Football Fever, but the best known football melody is probably Offside by Barry Stoller, otherwise known as the signature tune for "Match of the Day". Neither golf nor tennis affords us much, though both figure in Erik Satie's Sports et Divertissements for piano solo. But the most productive sports musically are cricket and horse racing, unsurprisingly as both have a long history.

Cricketers appear on the title page of Matthias von Holst's Village Rondo written in 1812. He was, incidentally, Gustav's great-grandfather. There are many cricketing songs, exemplified by Willow the King (Farmer), The Cricketers of Hambledon (Peter Warlock) and Alfred Scott-Gatty's Cricket which was dedicated to the I Zingari.

Dancers in Victorian ballrooms enjoyed gems like the Raniitsinhji Waltz, The Merry Cricketers' Polka and in one dedicated to Dr W.G.Grace Cricket Bat Polka. Also, Albert Coates' opera Pickwick contained a cricket fugue and the music for the film The Final Test, released in 1953, was by Benjamin Frankel.

Horse-racing music has often featured the Derby. An overture by William Alwyn, a genre movement by Robert Farnon, and an operetta by A P Herbert and Alfred Reynolds were all called Derby Day. Louis Jullien's galop, The Derby, was tactlessly played by his orchestra during Doncaster's 1850 St. Leger Week. Billy Mayerl's three once-popular 1930s musical comedies Sporting Love, Twenty-to-One and Over She Goes all introduce racing with Simon May's catchy signature tune enhancing the television series 'Trainer'. Then, of course, there are the popular horse-racing songs Camptown Races and Bladon Races as well as others which are less well known.

It would be possible to write a book on the subject as has been done with cricketing songs by David Allen in his 1981 publication "A Song for Cricket", or even to promote a concert of sporting music using as a starting reference the thirty melodies on the compact disc The Great Sporting Experience.

Philip Scowcroft



By Philip Scowcroft

As both sport and light music have a primary entertainment function it is natural to connect the two.

Among individual sports, cricket and horse-racing appear to have the most musical connections. Cricketing songs are legion, and include Peter Warlock's lovely ballad The Cricketers of Hambledon, John Farmer's Willow - the King, John Barnby's Cricket is King, F.S. Kelly's Eton and Winchester and Alfred Scott-Gatty's Cricket, dedicated to the I Zingari club.

At various times Victorian ballrooms resounded to the strains of Cricket Bat Polka, the Merry Cricketers' Polka (by Alfred Taylor), Ranjitsinhji Waltz, the Cricketers' Schottische and the I Zingari Galop, among many others. Peter Yorke's Screen Fragments for piano included one entitled The Cricket Match; of cricketing films, Malcolm Arnold wrote music for Badger's Green (1947) and Ben Frankel for The Final Test in 1953.

Horse-racing invaded the lighter musical theatre on a surprising number of occasions: Newmarket (1896: music by J.M. Capel, John Crook and others), The Gentleman Jockey (1907: music by George Ess), Derby Day (1932: an attractive tribute to Gilbert and Sullivan by A.P. Herbert and Alfred Reynolds, featuring tipsters, jockeys and a chorus of Pearly Kings), no fewer than three with music by Billy Mayerl - Sporting Love, Twenty-to-One and Over She Goes, all popular, especially the first and the Ascot Gavotte from My Fair Lady.

The Derby figures in a Louis Jullien galop of that title, tactlessly played by him in a Doncaster St. Leger week concert in 1850; in William Alwyn's Derby Day overture, inspired by Frith's painting: in Robert Farnon's orchestral miniature Derby Day (Farnon also wrote a Goodwood Galop) and in the similarly titled 1952 film with music by Anthony Collins. Other racing films included The Galloping Major (1951), with music by Georges Auric, Grand National Night (1953, music by John Greenwood) and the TV series Trainer, introduced by Simon May's catchy tune. Of racing songs, everyone knows Camptown Races (Stephen Foster) and the Geordie anthem Blaydon Races; I could cite several lesser-known ones.

If we ignore classical adaptations for recent World Cups, football's best known tune is Match of the Day, originally called Offside, by Barry Stoller, though we may notice Roger Barsotti's Football Fanfare and Jack Beaver's Football Fever. Wilfred Burns wrote the music for the 1955 film The Love Match and Elgar was moved to write a snatch of melody on reading a football report in 1898.

I can think of little music associated with rugger (apart from the Holst adaptation World in Union), nor with tennis and golf, though both figure in Erik Satie's Sports et Divertissements (1914) for piano, while the BBC's Wimbledon coverage opens and closes with two different tunes, by Keith Mansfield and Arnold Steck. Pop Looks Bach, which introduces "Ski Sunday" has a seemingly unbreakable association with winter sports and is more up to date than Waldteufel's Skaters' Waltz.

Similarly Ron Goodwin's The Trap seems inseparable from the London Marathon. Edward White's Tour de France can represent cycling, Roger Barsotti's Motor Sport the perils of Formula One; yachting is evoked by Jack Beaver's Yacht Race and Simon May's tune for Howard's Way.

Classical pieces associated with hunting or shooting by Vivaldi, Berlioz, Haydn, Weber and Lortzing have counterparts in lighter vein by Strauss (Auf der Jagd polka) and Thomas Dunhill, his 1930s operetta Tantivy Towers.

Finally, there are the more general sporting compositions. Hubert Bath's march Out of the Blue has introduced BBC's "Sports Report" for half a century; Charles Williams' The Challenge has had almost as long a run for "BBC Sports Personality of the Year". Effective though some of the present-day pop-based sporting signature tunes are, the older ones suit my ears better. I prefer Len Stevens' News Scoop to the present "Grandstand" music and probably even Arnold Steck's Drum Majorette, which once introduced "Match of the Day", to Offside. We can add Farnon's All Sports, Sports Challenge and Grandstand, Jack Beaver's Spotlight on Sport, Sidney Torch's International Sports and Wilfred Burns' Saturday Sports (which introduced "Sportsview", ironically a midweek programme) as other vintage tunes from the classic production music era, even if not all of them actually introduce radio or TV sporting programmes. They surely deserve to do so.

Generally speaking, sport has inspired much attractive, mostly light, often marchlike, music; other compositions have become sport pieces by association, even if not originally- "sports titled". One who, like me, is an enthusiast for both music and sport has double pleasure in charting the interface between the two.

Philip L. Scowcroft

Editor's Note: We should also note Honegger's Symphonic Movement Rugby and Bohuslav Martinu's tone poem Half-Time.


by Philip Scowcroft

These topics, both of them passions of the present writer, have in many respects become inextricably linked. Cricketing musicians have included Sir Thomas Beecham, the composer C. Armstrong Gibbs, Patrick Moore, better known as an astronomer but also a composer of ability, Julian Bream and Frederick Delius (surprisingly so perhaps, but he was born in Yorkshire!). Of preset day cathedral organists ten own up to an interest in cricket.

Musical cricketers have been legion - just four who come to mind are Colin Blythe, Maurice Allom, Mike Brearley and A.R. Lewis. Sir Neville Cardus of The (Manchester) Guardian and, more recently, Michael Kennedy CBE of the Daily Telegraph have written with memorable elegance and humour about both.

Notable cricketing occasions have often felt the need of a band, brass or military, to add distinction to them, perhaps even to liven the tempo of the play. The Scarborough Festival has for many years had this adornment, but the "band habit" was established well back in the last century; for example, when the All England XI visited Doncaster in 1862, the Band of the 1st West York Yeomanry Cavalry, a local regiment, was in attendance. The Doncaster team, a XXII, won, but we are unable to assess how much the music inspired them.

'On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined'

Cricket has, in all its infinite variety, inspired a wide range of music, especially songs. This is a topic which has already been most admirably covered by David Rayvern Allen in his A Song For Cricket (Pelham, 1981) and this brief paper does not set out to traverse the same ground, rather to add a few footnotes thereto. Not that cricketing music need necessarily be vocal. Indeed, as Allen points out, the earliest known sheet music to depict the game on its cover was a piano solo of c. 1812, The Village Rondo by Matthias Holst, great-grandfather of the composer of The Planets. The elder Holst composed for the theatre and was clearly attracted to village subjects as about the same time he also published a Cottage Rondo.

I have come across a 'Schottische' entitled The Cricketers played at a Doncaster Mansion House Ball for the Doncaster Volunteers on 23 February 1865 and played by Mr Acey's Celebrated Quadrille band from Hull. A polka, The Merry Cricketers, was popular in the ballrooms of Doncaster, and doubtless elsewhere, in the last years of the 19th Century, even, and appropriately so, at the annual balls of the Doncaster Cricket Club of the day which were held in that town's Mansion House. Its composer Alfred Taylor (1855-1915) was born in York, but settled in Lancashire, where his opera The Bachelors (he wrote another entitled Amanda) had a good run in a Manchester theatre. He came to Doncaster in 1889 and held several positions as Organist in various local churches. A capable pianist (some of his piano compositions were published; he conducted choirs, amateur operatics and a pierrot party locally.

The I Zingari club inspired, in name at least, a Galop, a Twostep and a Valse, all of them published. And there were the Cricket Bat Polka (dedicated to W.G.) by Henry Sutch, the Ranjitsinhji Waltz by Charles T. West and sundry Cricketers' or Cricket Polkas and Galops. Moving into the present century, that tuneful light orchestral and band composer Peter Yorke (1902-66) brought out in 1938 a series of Screen Fragments for piano solo, No.7 of which was entitled The Cricket Match.

The best remembered cricket feature film is still The Final Test (1953); this had incidental music by Benjamin Frankel (1906-73), who wrote music for dozens of films, mostly post-war, but also more seriously, composed eight symphonies and five string quartets. Another was Badger's Green (1947) for which Malcolm Arnold wrote the score.

'I have a song to sing O!'

Cricketing songs have covered a wide range of musical idioms - jazz, "popular", folk and classical - and have been intended for all manner of auditoria: theatres, music hall, taverns, club rooms and concert halls. Many famous cricketers of the past had songs, or instrumental pieces, dedicated to them, or about them: Grace, Ranji, C.I. Thornton, Jack Hobbs and Sir Donald Bradman, who even composed a song himself. Many of the earliest (i.e. 18th Century) cricket songs were designed or adapted as drinking songs for the cricketers themselves.

Music was important to the Hambledon Club; John Nyren, its Laureate and the Cardus of his era, was himself a musician. Many songs written in the 19th Century found their way into the popular "smoking concerts" which raised money for cricket clubs. As that century progressed, one detects a tendency for such "club" songs to become more solemn. An example is Alfred Scott-Gatty's Cricket, dedicated to the I Zingari and reproduced in Allen's book without comment.

Scott-Gatty (1847-1918) was the son of the Vicar of Ecclesfield in South Yorkshire and became involved in heraldry, eventually aspiring to the prestigious position of Garter King of Arms; as a musical amateur he composed various children's operettas, songs for children and - especially popular - the Plantation Songs. He was no mean singer himself.

Other cricketing music was heard in the theatres which proliferated in the provinces from 1750 onwards or, later, in the music halls which reached their zenith in the late Victorian period. Cricketing lyrics figured in the operettas Utopia Limited (1893), by Gilbert and Sullivan, and The Country Girl (1902) whose music was by Lionel Monckton (1861-1924).

In more serious mood (or is it?) is the "Cricket Fugue'' introduced by Albert Coates (1882-1953) into his opera Pickwick an allusion no doubt, though I have not heard the opera, to the classic fictional game between Dingley Dell and All Muggleton so eccentrically described by Dickens. A whole cricketing scene forms part of Wild Oates a 1938 musical by Noel Gay. Not until 1957, however, was a complete operetta devoted to a cricket subject. The Batsman's Bride, with music by Percy Heywood and words by Donald Hughes, two Welsh schoolteachers, and in just one act of around 50 minutes duration, was described by the Doncaster Chronicle as "a respectable parody of Gilbert and Sullivan" when it was performed by a local school early in 1959.

Many of the most effective cricket songs of more recent years have been folk-based ones like those produced by the Yetties or by West Indian calypso singers or have emanated from popular entertainers like Richard Stilgoe; thus cricket's songs have now resumed the liveliness of their 18th Century counterparts after the more solemn episode noted above.

'Play up! Play up..'

An important sub-group among cricketing songs embraced those written for and about school cricket, most of which appeared in the half century before the outbreak of the Great War when the game in the public schools was at its most prestigious. Not that it was only public schools that these songs targeted. The effusions of James Gallatly written around 1900, like A Cricket Song (he also wrote A Hockey Song, A Rugger Song and A Tennis Song) seem to be aimed rather at prep school level. Mostly these songs were composed by the music masters at the schools in question (Shrewsbury and Harrow were particularly prolific in this respect). They may be seen as a musical equivalent of Henry Newbolt's poem 'Vitai Lampada'. So do W H Lonsdale's Songs for Boys which include King Willow.

Few of them, songs or composers, were particularly distinguished but among the composers we can point to a number of possible exceptions. There were two late songs from Tonbridge School and around 1920, with music by Thomas Wood (1892-1950), an Oxford graduate who was at Tonbridge for only four years (1920-4) and who later composed many cantatas, often with a nautical flavour (I remember with pleasure performing his Master Mariners at school in December 1950) plus other songs and a few instrumental and orchestral pieces.

Then there were the two Harrow composers, John Farmer and Eaton Faning, who succeeded Farmer at Harrow, in 1885, who also earned some distinction. Farmer (1836-1901), who was responsible for Forty Years On and (one of the most famous of all cricketing songs) Willow the King, virtually created the genre of the school song. But his horizons were wider than that. He taught abroad for some years and was interested in Wagner. He only went to Harrow in 1862 as a result of being noticed by some Old Harrovians while giving piano demonstrations at the London International Exhibition of that year. When he left Harrow he became Organist of Balliol College Oxford and founded the celebrated Balliol Concerts. He championed the music of Bach and his oratorio Christ and His Soldiers was once popular with smaller choirs, not least in South Yorkshire. Most of Farmer's stage works were intended for amateurs, often youngsters.

Eaton Faning's A Gentleman's-a-Bowling, The Niner and If Time is Up, all featuring cricket, followed in the Farmer tradition of Harrow school songs. Cornish-born and trained at the Royal Academy of Music (he later taught there and at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School as well), Faning composed much church music and many secular choral songs, of which The Vikings and Moonlight were especially popular, again judging from the programmes of South Yorkshire choirs. His stage works, like Farmer's, were primarily for amateurs, though one, Mock Turtles, was used at the Savoy Theatre as a curtain raiser first to Patience, then to Iolanthe.

What are you famous for?

Farmer and Faning, even Thomas Wood, are now almost forgotten even as names but some cricket songs were penned by composers whose fame can still be recalled. Sir Joseph Barnby (1838-96), another who, like Scott-Gatty, was Yorkshire by birth, was Conductor of the Royal Choral Society and later Principal of the Guildhall School and composed Cricket is King whilst he was Precentor at Eton, though this is by no means as well known a song as his Sweet and Low which one suspects has been sung by more cricketers (and in more pubs) down the years.

Another Etonian was the Australian F.S. Kelly (1881-1916), who fought at Gallipoli and was killed in the Somme campaign Nov 1916, whose works included two violin sonatas, a String Trio, songs, piano pieces and an orchestral Elegy in memory of the poet Rupert Brooke, a colleague in the Royal Naval Division. In 1903, early in his short career, Kelly composed Eton and Winchester, celebrating a cricketing fixture of considerable antiquity.

George Alexander Macfarren (1813-87), Principal of the Royal Academy and composer of nineteen operas (most of them managed to get staged, too), thirteen cantatas, nine symphonies, some attractive chamber music and much else, wrote a Cricketer's Song at the request of the publishers Novello's and a cricket chorus for his own opera She Stoops to Conquer (1864), doubtless feeling that the village setting of Goldsmith's original play demanded some cricketing colour.

And Peter Warlock (1894-1930), one of the finest English song composers of this century, penned The Cricketers of Hambledon in 1929 for a match at that historic venue; it is a hearty, bibulous number (Warlock was a great toper) very much in the style of his much better known Captain Stratton's Fancy. Both are drinking songs adapted to the concert room.

The title of John Ireland's Goal and Wicket, number three of The Land of Lost Content (1920-1), to poems by A.E. Housman, also caught my eye but closer examination suggested that it was more concerned with football than cricket. Julian Wright's The Cricketers, a song, has also enjoyed some success.

It is a measure of the significance which cricket has acquired in English life and social attitudes over at least the past two centuries and a half that it, more than any other sport, surely, should have inspired such a wealth of varied music. Happily there seems to be no end to it.

Philip Scowcroft


1. Information from the Holst Museum, Cheltenham, who own a copy of the piece.

2. Op. cit., pp.34-8.

3. His real name was Philip Heseltine.

4. Sports et Divertissements (1914) by Erik Satie (1866-1925), a suite for piano solo, has many movements, each depicting a different sport or activity - including golf and tennis though not cricket, but then Satie was a Frenchman and France has rarely shown interest in the game.

Editor's Note: Arnold Bax was a passionate cricket fan and in his younger days played for The Old Broughtonians. See the 1971 Bax biography by Colin Scott-Sutherland.

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