Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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This ballad was written by Thomas Moore, during his travels in America, Michakl Kelly, who composed the music, was the son of a wine-merchant, in Mary street, Dublin, who was for many years master of ceremonies at the vice-regal castle. Michael was bom in 1762. While very young, he showed great musical capacity, both as singer and player. and his father procured him the best musical advantages within his reach. It happened that the very best were embodied in the person of an Italian, who loved the merchant's wine as much as his boy's musical talent; and Michael relates, that many a night he was kept up until midnight before the professor was in a condition to give him the lessons by which he profited too much to lose. He was sent to Naples, and he tells in his "Reminis­cences," that his father had a piano made'for him, as pianos were scarce and high, espe­cially in Italy. The journey took place during our Revolution, and although he was on board a neutral vessel, she was boarded by an American privateer. He says: " A sturdy ruffian began to break open my piano-case with a hatchet, which, when I saw, I manfully began to weep and cry out, 'Oh! my dear piano!' The cabin-boy, who was about my own age, called out, ■ For God's sake, don't cry, Master Kelly!' The chief mate of the privateer. who was quietly perusing some of our captain's papers, on hearing these words, turned round, and looking steadfastly at me, said, 'Is your name Kelly?' I answered 'yes.' 'Do you know anything of a Mr. Thomas Kelly, of Mary street, Dublin ?' said he. ' He is my father,' was my reply. The young man immediately started up, and, with tears in his eyes, said,' Don't you remember me? I am Jack Cunningham, who, when you were a little boy, nursed you and played with you ?'" The piano was spared, but his Italian master would not allow him to use it, as it was thought to spoil the voice. Tears afterward. Kelly was sitting near Lord Nelson, at Lady Hamilton's, when Lord Nelson said, "Mr. Kelly, I have often heard your old master speak of you with great affection, though he said you were as wild as a colt. He mentioned, also, your having given him your piano-forte, which, he said, nothing should induce him to part with."
Sir "William Hamilton, the British Minister at Naples, assisted in procuring for him the best musical advantages, and as a tenor-singer, Kelly made a successful tour of the conti­nent. In Vienna, he formed a close intimacy with Mozart, and he was for some time in the service of the Emperor Joseph. His first appearance in London was in 1787, at Drury Lane, where he held the position of first singer and musical manager, until he left the stage. He-began the composition of music in 1797, and wrote upwards of sixty pieces, most of which were successful. The airs in Colman's "Blubeard" are Kelly's. His "Reminiscences" appeared a few months before his death, which took place in 1826. They were written by Theodore Hook, from Kelly's rough material.