Annotation:Dead March in Saul (The)

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DEAD MARCH IN SAUL, THE. English, March (whole time). Saul was composed by George Frideric Handel in 1738-39. This has become one of the most famous of funeral airs, used on may occasions in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was, for example, played during the progress of the hero Lord Horatio Nelson's casket from Westminster to St. Paul's. It was played before military executions in the British army, and was the most frequently used funeral march by American Civil War bands. The tune was also played for other kinds of executions as well in the 19th century. For example, Captain Boteler of H.M.S. Gloucester witnessed the hanging of twenty Spanish pirates at Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1823:

Early in the morning the Gloucester's boats, manned and armed with a guard of marine drums and fifes, went up to Kingston, returning in a procession towing the launch with the captain and nine pirates, the drums and fifes giving out the 'Dead march in Saul' 'Adeste Fideles,' etc. The following morning the other ten were also exe- cuted-a fearful sight. No men could go to their death with less apparent concern. Before the captain first went up the ladder he called upon his men to remember they were before foreigners and to die like Spaniards. [Michael Pawson & David Buisseret, Port Royal, Jamaica; Oxford, 1975].

Charles Dickens refers to it in his last novel, Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), where Mr. Wilfer suggests that going through life with Mrs. Wilfer is like keeping time to the 'Dead March' in Saul, from which we may gather the lady was not the liveliest of companions.

"Dead March in Saul" was printed by Robert Bremner in his Collection of Airs and Marches (London, 1761, pp. 34-35), and appears in a variety of other instrumental tutors and collections of airs and martial music. It also was included in a few musicians' manuscript collections of the latter 18th and early 19th centuries, including those of William Morris (Hunterdon County, N.J., 1776), American flute player Henry Beck (1786), and Philadelphia musician William Patten (1800), and, in England, Rev. R. Harrison (c. 1815, Cumbria) and William Clarke (Feltwell, Norwalk, East Anglia).

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Robert Bremner (A Collection of Airs and Marches for Two Violins or German Flutes), c. 1756-61; No. 31, pp. 34-35)

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