Reginald Somerville

Reginald Somerville (1867 – 8 July 1948) was an English composer and actor. He is known for writing many drawing-room ballads such as "God Sends the Night", "Yestereve", "Zaida: A Song of the Desert" and "The Lark and the Nightingale", as well as a handful of operas.


Somerville received musical training under the Italian tenor and teacher Giulio Moretti.[1] He co-wrote music with A. McLean and G. W. Byng for the musical farce, A White Silk Dress, opening at London's Prince of Wales's Theatre on 3 October 1896.[2] In collaboration with the librettist Guy Eden, he wrote The 'Prentice Pillar, a romantic opera in one act in 1899.[3] Somerville's "The Ballad of Thyra Lee", a dramatic scene, premiered in 1900, was given at a Royal Philharmonic Society concert in May 1903.[4] Also 1903, he played opposite Marie Studholme in The School Girl. In 1909, his opera The Mountaineers was premiered at the Savoy Theatre in London. It had a two-month run and a provincial tour in late 1910.[5]

After the First World War, Somerville wrote Antoine, an opera that he considered his best work,[6] which was produced at the Lyceum Theatre, London, by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. The plot of the opera featured a blind sailor who has his sight miraculously restored only to discover his wife eloping with a rich lover.[7] He also wrote both the music and lyrics for a three-act opera titled David Garrick, which was founded on T. W. Robertson's well-known comedy of the same name. It was premiered in 1920 by the Carl Rosa company and then presented under Somerville's management in the West End, substantially re-written to suit the light-music audience.[8] Critics were divided on the merit of Somerville's music. The Illustrated London News remarked that the score "halts between the methods of the lyric and the grand-opera stage, and would have been all the better for cutting out all the connections with the latter."[9] A week later, the critic continued, "He has no great gift of melody. ... Worse than the orchestration is the handling of the ensembles, if one may call them ensembles."[10] The work was revived in 1932.[citation needed] In 1924, he wrote The Love Doctor, a "musical show with a story", which was toured on the Moss' Empires circuit and played in London at the Chelsea Palace Theatre in 1925.[citation needed]

Somerville's work as a composer dried up with the advent of sound films in the mid-1920s, and he took to teaching, but he became ill, ran into debt and was declared bankrupt in 1934. The bankruptcy was discharged in 1937.[11]

He died on 8 July 1948 at St John's nursing home, Tankerton-on-Sea, in Kent.[12]

Instrumental works and songsEdit

Somerville's published works for piano include: "Alpine Roses – Morceau" (1913); "Automobile waltz" (1912); "Carina – Morceau pizzicato pour Piano" (1911); "The Honey Bee – Humoresque for the piano" (1924); "Intermezzo" (1922); "The Mountaineers – Pianoforte Selection" (1913); "Three Dances" (1922); and "Three Light Pieces for Piano: Bagatelle, Melody, and Valse" (1911).[13] Among his orchestral works are "Four Fancies – Suite" (1925); "Funeral of a Flea" (1928); "Nucleus Themes, No. 1" (1927); "Razzle-Dazzle" (1928); and "Two Grotesque Recitations (1927)".[13]

Songs by Somerville include: "All the Way to Coventry" (1913);[13] "Call the yowes to the knowes" (1891);[14] "God Sends the Night" (1908);[15] "The Hour I love the best of all" (1924);[13] "The Lark and the Nightingale" (1900);[16] "The Laughing Waves" (1900);[17] "A Memory" (1891);[14] "The Song of Kent" (1921);[13] "Songs of Friendship" (1909);[18] "The Amber Necklace" (1917);[13] "When Dreams come true" (1913);[13] "Wherever I may be" (1913);[13] "Who Rides for the King" (1911);[19] and "Zaïda" (1914).[13]


  1. ^ The Musical Times, November 1928, p. 1029
  2. ^ Parker, John. Who's Who in the Theatre: A Biographical Record of the Contemporary Stage (London: Pitman, 1922), p. 1128.
  3. ^ The Musical Times, October 1899, p. 685
  4. ^ The Times, 11 June 1900, p. 4; and 21 September 1904, p. 7
  5. ^ Penny Illustrated Paper, 23 April 1910, p. 530; Issue 2552.
  6. ^ Somerville, Reginald. "Memories of The Mountaineers", in Music Masterpieces: Gems from the World's Famous Operas and Musical Plays, Percy Pitt (ed.), vol. 3, part 15 (London: Amalgamated Press, 1926), p. 76
  7. ^ The Musical Times, October 1919, p. 557
  8. ^ The Musical Times, April 1922, p. 262
  9. ^ The Illustrated London News, 11 March 1922, p. 368
  10. ^ The Illustrated London News, 18 March 1922, p. 386
  11. ^ The Times, 13 January 1937, p. 4
  12. ^ Farrell, Scott. The Final Savoy Operas: A Centenary Review, p. 7.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i British Library integrated catalogue, accessed 4 September 2010
  14. ^ a b The Musical Times, August 1891, pp. 491–92
  15. ^ The Musical Times, May 1908, pp. 317–20
  16. ^ The Musical Times , April 1900, pp. 249–53
  17. ^ The Musical Times, September 1900, pp. 1–8
  18. ^ The Musical Times, June 1909, pp. 381–82
  19. ^ The Musical Times, October 1911, pp. 1–8