Britain was so thrilled by its 1868 military escapade in Ethiopia/Abyssinia that it set it to music – repeatedly. See links to the scores for two of the pieces inspired by the invasion below. A free copy of my book to the first person who can reclaim the music, record a substantial part of it and post it online. Please post links in the comments section.
Abyssinia fever burned bright across Britain – from its music halls to its parliament – after the news of the victory came pulsing over the telegraph wires in 1868.
Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli stood up in the House of Commons in early July to praise ‘one of the most remarkable military enterprises of this century’. He gave a colourful account of the campaign, right up to its climax where ‘the standard of St. George was hoisted on the mountains of Rasselas’ – a slightly confusing mashup of references as St George is as venerated in Ethiopia as he is in England, if not more so. The expedition, Disraeli said, would ‘add lustre to the name of this nation, and … beneficially influence the future history of the world’.
At the Theatre Royal, Holborn, The Abyssinian Duet sung by Miss Fanny Josephs and Mr G. Honey was ‘rapturously encored’ night after night. A whole musical extravaganza, The Fall of Magdala, performed
at London’s Agricultural Hall, promised a grand descriptive quadrille, with military effects, imposing martial marches and four military bands backed by a great orchestra performing pieces evoking scenes from the ‘warriors of Britain and the martial sons of India encamped on the plains of Hindostan’ through to ‘the revels of the African savages in the wild fastness of their native land’, climaxing with the victorious assault on the mountain fortress.
Another piece The Abyssinian Expedition, had musical passages representing mortars, Snider rifle fire and the “Abyssinian war cry” (Yah ha yah ha yah ha). You can still pick up the sheet music, arranged both for piano and for violin and cello, for about a tenner on eBay and put on a performance of your own.
Alternatively you can download the music in PDF form by clicking on the images above or the links below.
As I said at the top, a free copy of my book to the first person who can reclaim the music, record a substantial part of it and post it online. Please post links in the comments section.