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R. B. Hall
"The New England March King"
Composer, musician, conductor
1858 - 1907

R.B. Hall information
R. B. Hall biography
R.B. Hall marches
Recent editions of R.B. Hall marches
Recordings of R.B. Hall marches
R. B. Hall Day
A tribute to R.B. Hall from Band Fan, Spring 1977
Biography of R.B. Hall, from The Cornet Compendium by
Richard I. Schwartz
R.B. Hall links


R.B. Hall biography

Reprinted from 14th Annual R.B. Hall Day Program, Westbrook, ME


Robert Browne Hall is known as a cornet virtuoso, bandmaster and composer of marches. He was born into a musical family on June 30, 1858 in Bowdoinham, ME. His father played E flat cornet in a local band and was his son's first cornet instructor. R.B. Hall continued playing cornet and eventually took lessons and received much encouragement from Mr. Melville H. Andrews, a music store owner in Bangor, ME. The first march the Hall composed, entitled M.H.A., was dedicated to Mr. Andrews. R.B. Hall was an outstanding cornetist with tremendous playing range. It is said that while marching in parades, he would play certain strains an octave higher than written. You always knew when his band was coming your way.

At age 19, R.B. Hall was director of the Richmond Cornet Band. His first three marches written for that band were simply known as RCB1, RCB2, and RCB3.

In 1878 Hall auditioned for J.T. Baldwin's First Corps of Cadets Band in Boston and shared the solo cornet chair with Allesando Liberati for four years. Passing up other tempting offers, R. B. Hall accepted a call to rebuild the Bangor Band. He did the job so well that a week of tribute to him in 1884 culminated with the presentation of a gold Boston Three Star Ne-Plus cornet by the grateful citizens of the city. Hall responded by writing the march Greeting to Bangor.

Hall was associated with several other bands including the Bangor Band, Waterville Military Band (later known as R.B. Hall's Military Band), Chandler's Band, Cherryfield Band, Olympia Band of Augusta, and the Colby College Band. During this period he took time to rebuild the "musically bankrupt" Tenth Regiment Band of Albany, NY. Hall left the Albany assignment to return to his former position in Waterville as director of Waterville Military Band. While in Waterville several of his finest marches were written. He also enjoyed great popularity throughout New England as a cornet soloist.

Besides dedicating his compositions to people and places, dedications include local characters (Uncle Dooley's Delight), newspapers (Richmond Bee, The Sentinel), and Fraternal Orders (Demolay Commandery for Knight Templars, The Redman's March for Improved Order of Redmen, Exalted Ruler for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and Independentia for Independent Order of Oddfellows).

R.B. Hall died on June 8, 1907 in Portland, ME. He had published more than 62 marches during his lifetime. The funeral procession included the Olympia Band, the Waterville Military Band, and Chandler's Band. March Funebre, Eternal Rest, and Independentia were among the Hall compositions played for that day. After his death, his wife sold many of his manuscripts. Publishers patched up the manuscripts and sold them under the R.B. Hall name.

Hall received important recognition during and after his lifetime, including John Philip Sousa playing a Hall march at the Paris Exposition in 1900. His marches were also popular with British bands. A memorial program was given in his honor on August 14, 1936 in Waterville, ME. During this event, a memorial bandstand was dedicated to R.B. Hall's memory. A bill was approved by Maine Governor Joseph Brennan on May 11, 1981 to establish an annual R.B. Hall Day to honor and commemorate Robert Browne Hall.

R.B. Hall Day
R. B. Hall Day Proclaimed by the Governor of the State of Maine

L.D. 1920 - An act to establish an R.B. Hall Day to honor and commemorate a great Maine composer as approved by the Governor, May 11, 1981

"The last Saturday in June of each year shall be designated R.B. Hall Day and the Governor shall annually issue a proclamation inviting and urging the people of the State to observe the day with appropriate ceremony and activity. R.B. Hall Day shall commemorate and honor R.B. Hall, and internationally recognized composer. Recognized primarily as a composer of marches he was an accomplished conductor and cornet soloist, whose creative talent and native ability marked him as one of Maine's outstanding citizens."

The bill was approved by Governor Joseph Brennan on May 11, 1981, under the preamble making it possible to become law before the 90 day after adjournment requirement so that it could coincide with the R.B. Hall Day, June 27, 1981.

A tribute to R.B. Hall from Band Fan, spring 1977
The destiny of Robert Browne Hall was revealed early in his life. While a mere lad, he had already displayed an affinity for the cornet and by the age of 16, was widely sought after as a featured soloist in New England.

He was born on June 30, 1858 at Abagadasset Point, Bowdoinham, Maine. So intense was his desire to play the instrument that he took a job as a stock boy and shipping clerk in a shoe factory in order to pay for his lessons. Since his father had passed away while he was still a youth, he was obliged to contribute heavily to the support of his widowed mother and sisters.

When he was 19, he was appointed leader, arranger and soloist of the Richmond Cornet Band and from there he joined Thomas Baldwin's Band of Boston and played along side of the famous Allesandro Liberati and in the First Corps Cadet Band of Boston, which was formerly the Patrick S. Gilmore Band.

As his reputation grew, so did the demand for his services grow. At one time or another, he played with just about every fine musical organization in New England, including the bands of Jean Missud, David Wallace Reeves, Mace Gay, and the Germania Band of Boston.

During this same period, Hall rebuilt the Bangor (Maine) Band and wrote his first marches there. He was called to Albany, New York to perform a similar service -- rebuilding the Tenth Regiment Band -- which the Colonel of the Regiment called "musically bankrupt.".That Hall did his task well was evidenced by the invitations that band received to perform. It became a featured attraction at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo under his direction.

In composition, Hall's marches began to sell throughout the country. Publisher Harry Coleman brought out march after march, and the John Church Company and Carl Fischer all published his works. Among his great marches are Fort Popham; New Colonial; Independentia; Veni, Vidi, Vici; Tenth Regiment; and Exalted Ruler. Officer of the Day, published by Lyon and Healy, is probably his best known march.

His style of march writing is unique and he displayed a distinct quality of lift in his compositions which has given him a prominent place in the annals of American music. He published 62 marches in all. He had fine royalties from some of them - Officer of the Day in particular, which sold some 300,000 copes in Europe alone, with his royalty being $.02 per copy. His funeral march March Funebre has been played at more military funerals than any other piece.

John Philip Sousa had an extremely high regard for his march writing talents, for he played one of Hall's marches at the opening concert at the Paris Exposition in 1900.

This recognition has been preserved in Waterville, Maine where there is a display in the Waterville Historical Society's Redington Museum showing many of the artifacts of Mr. Hall's, including his Boston 3 Star cornet.

Much of the information for this article came from the late Thomas C. Bardwell Sr. of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.

R.B. Hall links





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