Colin McAlpin

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Colin McAlpin in 1903[1]

Colin McAlpin (9 April 1870 – 13 May 1942) was an English composer of songs, operas and ballet music, an organist and a writer of critical essays on music.


The cast of Colin McAlpin's opera Robin Hood, at Wellingborough School, 1892. The man in black standing on the right resembles McAlpin.

McAlpin was born in 1870, at 15 Gallowtree Gate, Leicester, England. He was the fourth child of a clothier John William McAlpin, and his German wife Marie Louise (née Gerdes).[2] He published his first composition when he was only 15 and at Wellingborough School: a song called The Cuckoo published in the Midland Musical Journal. At the age of 16 he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music to study harmony with F. W. Davenport and organ playing with Charles Steggall, and after three years he acquired silver medals in both areas of study. In 1892 Robin Hood, his first dramatic work, was performed at Wellingborough School and that year he was appointed organist and choirmaster at Kensington Presbyterian Church.

In 1897, King Arthur, an opera in three acts, commissioned by impresario Herbert Marshall, was performed by the Leicester Philharmonic Society under H. S. Ellis. In that year three of McAlpin's Ten Songs were performed in one of Granville Bantock's concerts for British composers. The Ten Songs were published by Cary & Son, the first of dozens of his pieces to be published by this company. In his thirtieth year McAlpin was appointed organist and choirmaster of Trinity Presbyterian Church Clapham, where his sacred cantata The Prince of Peace had its first performance. He had a later appointment as organist and choirmaster at Ealing Presbyterian Church.

In 1903 King Arthur was performed at the Royalty Theatre, London. In the same year his opera in four acts, The Cross and the Crescent, first produced at Covent Garden by the Moody-Manners company, won him the Manners Prize of £250 for the best opera by a British composer,[3] and it was performed subsequently in Glasgow and Edinburgh. A one-act opera The Vow staged at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham won him the same prize twelve years later.

His writings included critical essays published in journals The Musical Times and The Musical Quarterly. Hermaia: a Study in Comparative Esthetics, which his biographer David J. Fisher describes as "a remarkable study of comparative aesthetics", has been recognised as culturally important, was published in 1915.

In 1907 McAlpin had his portrait painted by Richard Jack RA, and a bronze bust was sculpted by W. B. Fagan FRBS.

He married an artist Susette Peach (1871-1950) in 1899, and they had one son Roderic McAlpin (1907-1965).

Colin McAlpin died at Dorking, Surrey, on 13 May 1942.[4]



The cover of the vocal score of McAlpin's opera King Arthur, signed by the composer
  • Robin Hood, an opera, written at school, about 1885
  • King Arthur, an opera in three acts, with words by the composer. Leipzig and London: Bosworth & Co., 1897. Premiere: Leicester Philharmonic Choir.[5]
  • Fingal, an opera in four acts, with a cast of 9
  • The Vow, an opera in one act, libretto upon the Biblical story of Jephtha's daughter.[6] Premiere in Nottingham, 1915, produced by Charles Manners.[7]
  • The Cross and the Crescent, his prize-winning opera, produced by Charles Manners and first performed in 1903. Words from John Davidson's translation of Pour la Couronne, a tragedy by François Coppée.[8]
  • Ingomar, an opera, performed at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1910.[9]


  • The Prince of Peace. Sacred cantata for chorus and organ, with soprano, tenor and bass soli. Cary & Co.: London[10][11]
  • Excalibur, in 2 Acts, for chorus SATB and orchestra


The cover of McAlpin's Ten Songs.[12]
  • Like as a Father, Sacred Song, London: J. Williams, 1903[13]
  • Ten Songs, London: Cary & Co., 1903 [14][15][16]OCLC 498420435
    • 1. The light of love (Hartley Coleridge)
    • 2. She walks in beauty (Byron)
    • 3. Elegy: Oh! snatched away in beauty's bloom (Byron)
    • 4. A faded violet (Shelley)
    • 5. Slumber song (Colin McAlpin) - "sung by Miss Ada Crossley"
    • 6. Music, when soft voices die (Shelley)
    • 7. A widow-bird (Shelley)
    • 8. Thou wouldst be loved (Edgar Allan Poe)
    • 9. A lament (Shelley) - two stanzas
    • 10. There be none of Beauty's daughters (Byron)
  • Ten Songs. Whaley, Royce & Co. Winnipeg, Toronto (1905)[17]
  • Three Songs, London: Cary & Co., 1904[18] OCLC 278282741
    • As of Yore
    • Spring
    • A Love Song
  • The Lad with the Bonnet of Blue (Alice C. MacDonell), London: Cary & Co., 1899[19] OCLC 278282743
  • Love's Vigil (W.W. Robinson), London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1917[20]
  • Mary's Song: A Song of Bethlehem (Colin McAlpin), London: Cary & Co., 1903[21]
  • The Penitent (John Murray), London: Weekes & Co., 1902[22]
  • Kent, Ballad (J.H. Barnes, etc.), London: Francis, Day & Hunter, 1912[23]
  • The Vow, song for baritone

Choral Songs[edit]

  • The Cuckoo, choral song, pub. in the Midland Musical Journal, 1885


  • Three Sketches, London: Willcocks & Co., 1893
  • Fantastic Dance, London: Cary & Co., 1903


  • Grand March, pub. in The Organist September 1902, The Lorenz Publishing Co., Dayton, Ohio
  • 11 Pieces for Organ or Harmonium, The Organist Library Book 6, London: Cary & Co., 1898[24]
  • 11 Pieces for Organ or Harmonium, The Organist Library Book 8, London: Cary & Co., 1903




  • "Germany: Her Music" The Musical Times, Vol. 57, No. 882. (1 August 1916), pp. 363–364
  • "Britain: Her Music" The Musical Times, Vol. 57, No. 884. (1 October 1916), pp. 445–447
  • "Carlyle and the Opera" The Musical Times, Vol. 58, No. 888. (1 February 1917), pp. 58–60
  • "The Reality of the Opera", Part I The Musical Times, Vol. 58, No. 891. (1 May 1917), pp. 201–203
  • "The Reality of the Opera", Part II The Musical Times, Vol. 58, No. 892. (1 June 1917), pp. 247–249
  • "Musical Criticism" The Musical Times, Vol. 58, No. 895, (1 September 1917), pp. 397–399
  • "Musical Appreciation: A Plea for Catholicity" The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3. (July 1920), pp. 403–416, OUP.
  • "On Hearing Music" The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3. (July 1922), pp. 419–434, OUP.
  • "Is Music the Language of the Emotions?" The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 3. (July 1925), pp. 427–443, OUP.
  • "Concerning Form in Music" The Musical Quarterly, Vol 15, No. 1 (1929), pp. 55–71, OUP.
  • "Musical Modernism: Some Random Reflections" The Musical Quarterly, Vol 16, No. 1 (January 1930), pp. 1–20, New York: G. Schirmer Inc.


  • Fisher, David J., Colin McAlpin: his music to 1903. Thesis (M.Mus), University of Sheffield, Dept. of Music, 1989 OCLC 271082986


  1. ^ Photograph from The Graphic, 3 October 1903
  2. ^ 1871 England and Wales Census
  3. ^ Hubbard and Krehbiel p.348
  4. ^ "Major events in the life of Colin McAlpin", by David J. Fisher, in the concert programme for a tribute performance of The Prince of Peace on 11 April 1987 at St Mary's Church, Knighton, Leicester
  5. ^ Howey & Reimer, p.571
  6. ^ Mentioned in The Era, 22 December 1915
  7. ^ Western Daily Press, 3 May 1915
  8. ^ Reviewed in The Era, 22 December 1915
  9. ^ The Straits Times, 2 February 1909
  10. ^ Arthur Elson: "Modern Composers of Europe"
  11. ^ British Library ref.
  12. ^ By permission of the Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
  13. ^ British Library ref.
  14. ^ Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.
  15. ^ British Library ref. G.485.p.(3.)
  16. ^ British Library ref. G.383.d.(6.)
  17. ^ British Library ref. G.424.q.(10.)
  18. ^ British Library ref. H.1799.ww.(28.)
  19. ^ British Library ref. H.1799.i.(56.)
  20. ^ British Library ref. H.1846.y.(40.)
  21. ^ British Library ref.
  22. ^ British Library ref.
  23. ^ British Library ref. H.1972.t.(27.)
  24. ^ British Library ref. G.575.f.(5.)
  25. ^ Some reprints of this book have title "Hermais: a Study in Comparative Esthetics"


  • Butt, Stephen (2013). The History of Leicester in 100 People. Leicester: Amberley. ISBN 9781445616858. 
  • Elson, Arthur. Modern Composers of Europe L.C. Page & Co., Boston, USA (1904)
  • Howey, Ann F. and Reimer, Stephen R. A Bibliography of Modern Arthuriana (1500-2000) D. S. Brewer, Cambridge (2006) ISBN 1 84384 068 5
  • Hubbard, W.L. and H.E. Krehbiel. The American History and Encyclopedia of Music: Operas Part II, Squire-Cooley Co., Toledo, Ohio, USA (1924)

External links[edit]