1831–1897

Introduction

Born: De­cem­ber 31, 1831, Ken­dal, West­more­land, Eng­land.

Died: Au­gust 6, 1897, Ken­dal, West­more­land, Eng­land.

Buried: Parkside Ce­me­te­ry, Ken­dal, West­more­land, Eng­land.

Biography

The death of Mr. Will­iam Small­wood, the writ­er and ar­ran­ger of nu­mer­ous pi­a­no­for­te piec­es of world-wide po­pu­lar­i­ty, took place on the 6th ult. He was not of a­dvanced age, hav­ing died in his six­ty-sixth year. The writ­er was a life-long friend, and mourns his loss with ma­ny oth­er mu­sic­al associates.

The end was ra­ther sud­den. Mr. Small­wood was re­cent­ly found to be suf­fer­ing from di­a­be­tes, but im­proved con­sid­er­a­bly; a par­a­ly­tic sei­zure, how­ev­er, cut him off in­stant­ly.

Mr. Small­wood was a na­tive of Ken­dal in Wes­tmore­land, and came of a fa­mi­ly dis­ting­uished for mu­sic­al gifts. His fa­ther oc­cu­pied the po­si­tion of band­mas­ter, and was al­so in­struct­or in sing­ing, whilst his un­cles on both sides were well-known in­stru­ment­al­ists and vo­cal­ists.

He ear­ly at­tract­ed the at­ten­tion and re­ceived much en­cour­age­ment from the fa­ther of the pre­sent writ­er and oth­ers. As a lit­tle boy at the Wes­ley­an cha­pel he used to play that harsh pre­decess­or of the har­mo­ni­um, the Ser­a­phine, and oft­en act­ed as de­pu­ty at the or­gan at var­i­ous ser­vic­es.

Even at se­ven years of age, he played the flute fair­ly well, and was a proud boy when he was able, along with his fa­ther, to play Ni­chol­son’s Beau­ties for the Flute, which at that time was one of the first and best ser­ies of du­ets for two flutes ex­tant. When the old cha­pel was re­moved, he joined in the val­e­dic­to­ry service, and re­called ear­ly days thus:—

When the or­gan was brought to the cha­pel, a chub­by-faced lad, at­tired in a round-about jack­et and wear­ing a cap up­on his cur­ly head, came to play it. There are men now liv­ing that com­pare that mo­dest and cle­ver youth with the most suc­cess­ful com­pos­er and ar­ran­ger of to-day.

For it is a fact that the most ex­ten­sive­ly-sold pi­a­no in­struct­or, a choice se­lect­ion of an­thems and psalm tunes, and an al­most in­nu­mer­a­ble num­ber of pieces bear the name of Will­iam Small­wood, Ken­dal, the youth that played the first so­lo up­on, and for some years pre­sid­ed with great ef­fi­cien­cy at, the or­gan in the Me­thod­ist Cha­pel.

When fif­teen years old, he was ap­point­ed or­gan­ist of St. George’s Church, Ken­dal, a post that he held for fif­ty years, re­sign­ing it on­ly at Chris­tmas last.

His Int­ro­duct­ion and March, pub­lished by B. Willi­ams, was his first pub­lished com­po­si­tion, and it was at once suc­cess­ful. He stu­died for some time un­der Dr. Ca­midge of York, and Mr. H. Phil­lips, the cel­e­brat­ed bar­i­tone, and as a young man al­ways took ad­van­tage of his ho­li­days to re­ceive les­sons from oth­er em­i­nent mu­si­cians in Lon­don, or on the Con­ti­nent.

By his eight­eenth year, his time was ful­ly oc­cu­pied as a teach­er. He is most wide­ly known as a com­pos­er and ar­range­r of p­i­ano­for­te mu­sic for pu­pils in the ear­li­er stag­es of their stu­dies, and was the most suc­cess­ful of all his com­pe­ti­tors in that par­ti­cu­lar line; as an in­stance of this, his pi­a­no­forte piece “Fai­ry Barque” sold in 1873 to Messrs. Brew­er for five gui­neas, was sold for £1,012 at an auc­tion five years lat­er and real­ised £1,810 10s., when re­sold by an auc­tion in 1896; by far the high­est price ev­er given for a si­mi­lar com­po­si­tion.

Publishers may find it dif­fi­cult to fill the place he leaves va­cant. Though un­am­bi­tious, both in me­lo­dy and har­mo­ny his pi­a­no­for­te com­po­si­tions are pure in style, and it may be tru­ly said that they point to high­er things, and show the way.

He him­self used to sum up his po­si­tion in the words of one of his pub­lish­ers: If you wrote mu­sic ful­ly equal to that of Mo­zart or Beet­ho­ven, the pub­lic would pre­fer Mo­zart and Beet­ho­ven, but you pre­pare the way for the great com­pos­ers, and the pub­lic shows its ap­pre­ci­a­tion by buy­ing what you and I sup­ply.

He was one of the first ful­ly to fin­ger his piec­es, and his ear­ly ef­forts, not by any means well-paid, were writ­ten to suit the needs of his own pu­pils.

Among his best known ar­range­ments were the ser­ies known as “Class­ics at Home,” “Lit­tle Buds,” “Lit­tle Foot­prints,” “Pleas­ing Themes,” “Choice Me­lo­dies,” “Steps For­ward,” “Youth­ful Plea­sure,” “Home Trea­sures,” “Flow­ers of Me­lo­dy,” “Ball Room Gems,” &c., be­sides fan­ta­sias on Sul­li­van’s op­er­as, vol­umes of ex­er­cis­es, and the ve­ry po­pu­lar pi­a­no­forte in­struct­or al­rea­dy re­ferred to.

But he did not con­fine his en­er­gies to this spe­cial line: his hymn tunes are to be found in ma­ny of the col­lect­ions pub­lished dur­ing the last for­ty years; he al­so wrote ma­ny suc­cess­ful an­thems, at least one of which, “Pray for the peace of Je­ru­sa­lem,” was fre­quent­ly per­formed by the late Sir John Goss. The day be­fore he died, he had a re­quest from a firm of pub­lish­ers to write an an­them for the com­ing Chris­tmas.

His own tastes were de­cid­ed­ly class­ic­al; he would play a fugue of Bach from me­mo­ry, and in the spa­cious draw­ing-room of the hand­some house he built in the sub­urbs of the town, in con­junc­tion with his ne­phews, Mr. Small­wood Met­calfe of the Roy­al Col­lege, Mr. J. Small­wood Wind­er of Ken­dal, and oth­ers, fre­quent­ly en­ter­tained his friends by giv­ing charm­ing per­form­anc­es of the high­est class mu­sic.

He was a ge­ni­al and gen­er­ous dis­po­si­tion; his fif­ty years’ ser­vice at St. George’s Church were prac­tic­al­ly giv­en, as his var­i­ous sub­scrip­tions more than eq­ualled his ve­ry small sal­a­ry. He spared no ex­pense in ed­u­ca­ting his young­er rel­a­tives for the po­si­tions in life they are des­tined to oc­cu­py, or to give plea­sure to his friends.

He showed great cheer­ful­ness and bu­oy­an­cy in all the con­cerns of life. In the pre­sence of young peo­ple he was es­pe­cial­ly hap­py, and he took a great in­ter­est in them. His con­nect­ion with Win­der­mere Col­lege was main­tained from his ear­ly days. Will­iam Ter­riss, the ac­tor, was one of his pu­pils.

Mr. Small­wood ne­ver mar­ried, but was con­tent with the life-long at­ten­tions of an am­i­a­ble and de­vot­ed sis­ter.

Prob­ab­ly so few dwell­ers in a some­what re­mote coun­try town could boast of so wide a cir­cle of ac­quaint­ance amongst the mu­si­cians and pub­lish­ers of the last half of the 19th cen­tu­ry, by num­bers of whom his com­par­a­tive­ly ear­ly death at six­ty-five will be deep­ly mourned.

Rev. H. V. Banks, preach­ing at St. George’s Church, re­ferred thus feel­ing­ly to his de­part­ed fel­low-work­er:—

As fif­ty years or­gan­ist of one church he at­tained a dis­ting­uished and al­most unique po­si­tion among or­gan­ists. The good and time-hon­oured ser­vic­es which Mr. Small­wood ren­dered to St. George’s dur­ing those fif­ty years, and the re­gard in which he gen­er­al­ly held is known to all. For the fif­ty years of his con­nect­ion with this church, he has lived a qui­et, use­ful, and con­sist­ent life, seek­ing to glo­ri­fy God by the use of such tal­ents as he pos­sessed, and to serve his day and gen­er­a­tion.

His abil­i­ty has been giv­en un­grudg­ing­ly to the church, and his de­votion to du­ty and punc­tu­al­i­ty is pro­ver­bi­al. If the fing­er of the clock point­ed to the hour of ser­vice to com­mence and he was not in is place, the prob­a­bil­i­ties were great­er that the clock was wrong than that he was late.

He spoke but lit­tle while on earth. His tongue was not the pen of a rea­dy writ­er, but with his fing­ers on the or­gan keys, as he led the voice of praise, he spoke to the soul of ma­ny a wor­ship­per.

The Mu­sic­al Her­ald, Sep­tem­ber 1, 1897, p. 297

Sources

Music

Help Needed

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Small­wood (head-and-shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els), would you ?