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1909 Military Band Competition

A Musicians' Company Competition for the Composition of Music for a Military Band

At a Court Meeting on 14th October 1908 an anonymous donation of 50 Guineas was announced. It had been offered as a prize for the composition of a piece of music suited to a Military Band. Additional donations in support of this suggestion had been received and were also presented to the Court. It was consequently agreed that such a competition take place and an organising Committee was assembled.


The press cutting left, taken from The British Bandsman of 14th November 1908 (which also appeared in other publications) announces the competition, gives guidance on the type of composition required and calls for applications.

Shown right is the printed 'Flyer' for this competition (dated 27th October 1908). It obviously contains much the same information as that presented in the newspaper publicity above, although it is entitled the Seventh Musical Competition.


It is believed that the first six competitions were:

Click on the competition title above to see more details on each one.


By 13th July, 119 manuscripts had been received (30 Overtures, 40 Marches, 23 Suites, 11 Phantasies and 15 presented in some other form). It was a competition open only to British Composers, but entries had been submitted from across the Empire including Burmah, India, South Africa, Canada and Malta.


A final shortlist of 7 was eventually established and the final judging performance took place at The Queen's Westminster Volunteers' Hall, Buckingham Gate on 13th October 1909. The Band of the Grenadier Guards played the submissions, led by Bandmaster Lieut. Dr Albert Williams.


The 5 winning entries (indicating the title originally ascribed to the piece) were:


  • 1st Place

Mr Percy Eastman Fletcher - A Suite of 3 movements: Back To The Land

                             (subsequently known as: Woodland Pictures-Rustic Suite)

  • 2nd Place

Mr Walter Wesché - A Concert Overture: A Lost Cause, Scotland, 1745

  • 3rd Place

Mr Percy Eastman Fletcher (again) - A March: Toujours Pret

                            (subsequently known as The Spirit of Pageantry)

  • 4th Place

Mr Francis Cunningham Woods - A Suite of 3 movements: Ars Longa

  • 5th Place

Mr Adam von Ahn Carse - A March: Bombardon

                            (subsequently known as Triumphal March)

The winners were announced by the incoming Master, Dr Thomas Lea Southgate at the Company's Installation Dinner at Mansion House on 26th October 1909. The cutting shown right, gives an overview of the evening. The cutting shown far right is a report of the prize giving and first public performance of the winning entries - this took place at Stationers' Hall on 6th December 1909 and was performed again by the Grenadier Guards.

The original annonymous benefactor of the competition, was later identified as Honorary Freeman, Ernest Palmer, other donations totalling over £100 were also received from within the Company. Minute Book 9 contains many references to this competition on pages 66-138.


Four of the original manuscripts of winning entries are still held by the Company and can be seen by clicking the relevant button below. The Manuscript of the winning entry by Mr Percy Fletcher is sadly lost, but a published edition is held and included below.

All unsuccessful entries were "Returned to Sender". However, the Company does retain the Autograph Manuscript Score of one unsuccessful entrant, that of Mr George Bellamy. It is contained within a Musicians' Company envelope (shown below left) which had been addressed to Mr Bellamy. The envelope also contains the Company's standard letter (below middle) informing all unsuccessful applicants of their failure to be short-listed.


A short note (below right) by George Bellamy accompanied his score, it indicated that his return address was simply "Halifax". There is no sign of any postage having been applied to the return envelope so it seems likely that the Company was waiting for Mr Bellamy to contact them with a 'better' address before consigning it to the Post Office.


Bellamy's score is shown at the bottom of this page. Click an image to expand and scroll through

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