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Robert Browne Hall and “Officer of the Day”

Hall-RB-Portrait

Robert Browne Hall (June 30, 1858 – June 8, 1907), usually known as R. B. Hall, was an American cornet virtuoso, bandmaster and leading composer of marches and other music for brass bands. A principal American composer of marching music, he was born into a musical family on June 30, 1858, at Bowdoinham, Maine, the son of Nathaniel W. and Virginia L. [Browne] Hall, and seldom left his native state during his lifetime.  His music though has traveled around the world. His father played E flat cornet in a local band and was his son’s first cornet instructor.

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 and served for a time as conductor. 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 besides the Bangor Band, including 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 Odd Fellows).  Hall was particularly popular in the United Kingdom, so much so that many lovers of brass band music there mistakenly imagine that Hall was an English composer. His celebrated march “Death or Glory”, written in 1895 and dedicated to the Tenth Regiment Band in Albany, New York, is a well-known staple of brass band concerts and competitions all over the U.K.

Having suffered a stroke in 1902 from which he never recovered, Hall died in poverty at Portland, ME, as a result of nephritis five years later on June 8, 1907, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, Maine.  His widow sold the manuscripts of many compositions. Unscrupulous publishers assembled and realized from fragments works they passed off as genuine Hall compositions. He left over a hundred marches and other compositions.   The trio from Hall’s New Colonial March provides the music for Stanford University’s official fight song, Come Join the Band.  The trio from Hall’s “Officer of the Day March” provides the melody for the Alma Mater of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.  As soloist, conductor, composer and teacher, Hall is still remembered in Maine. The last Saturday in June every year is officially Robert Browne Hall Day in the State of Maine.  Since 1981, numerous events commemorating R.B. Hall Day have been celebrated throughout the State of Maine and continue to honor the musical genius of Maine’s own Robert Browne Hall.

My collection includes the following works by Robert Browne Hall:

Gardes du Corps March.

Independentia.

Officer of the Day.

Tenth Regiment.

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