Biography of Frederick Neil Innes


FREDERICK NEIL INNES

(1854-1926)

 

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, while others have it literally thrust upon them.  Frederick Neil lnnes achieved his greatness at an age when most young boys are playing with marbles.   He was already playing trombone in the Life Guards Band of London England.  His father before him was a cornetist in the same band.  lnnes really started his musical career at eight as a chorister in the choir of St. Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, London, England.  Besides the trombone, he studied violin, piano and harmony at the London Conservatory of Music.

It has been said that Innes did for the trombone what the great Paganini did for the violin.   As the latter created a school of violinists, Innes did likewise for trombone players; his trombone exercises and various tutors for trombone became the panacea for an instrument.  Innes was born in London, England, on October 28, 1854.  As a young man his thought was that the trombone should take a more prominent place as a solo instrument.  He went in for more sensational methods to bring this about in a one-man campaign.  He was always an innovator even in his later advent into the musical society of America where he arrived in 1874 in Boston

He played one season in the Howard Street Theater, but he left suddenly for a return to Europe, in the latter part of 1875.  He was then twenty- one and beginning to dazzle the public with his brilliant trombone playing.  He went directly to Paris, where he vas engaged as special trombone soloist at the Follies Bergere, which was a new medium in this city.  Heretofore the trombone had never been used in such a spectacular manner.  The newspaper, Le Temps, characterized Innes as the greatest and newest thing in music to hit Pads in many years.  After one season at the follies Bergere, he went to Hamburg, Germany, where he was engaged as soloist with the Hans Halle Orchestra.  For a time he played solos with the famous Parlow Orchestra in Berlin.  He also played at the Winter Garden with Lauber and his orchestra and toured Europe’s principal cities as soloist.  It was during his engagement in St. Petersburg, Russia, that Innes met the young Czar of Russia, who was musically inclined.  The Czar so admired Innes that he presented him with a walking stick, having on it the coat of arms, set in rubies and diamonds.  He was honored by this presentation  After the mentioned tour of Europe, Innes returned to Paris, where he resumed playing at the Follies Bergere

There is an interesting story told about how Innes happened to return to America.  In 1879 and 1880, Jules Levy was at his peak as a soloist and was being featured with Gilmore’s Band at Manhattan Beach. The story goes that Pat Gilmore was slightly jealous of the attention Levy was getting, so he sailed for Europe in fall of 1879, in quest of someone to trim the sails of the high flying Levy.  When he arrived in Paris, he was told of a young trombonist who was playing at the Follies Bergere.  Quoting a written account:.

“Gilmore went to the Follies Bergere to hear Innes play, and was astonished by this young man’s virtuosity.  It had never occurred to him before, to use a trombone soloist as competition for Jules Levy, but after hearing lnnes play, this was something different.  He sent his card around with an invitation for lnnes to join him at another cafe in Paris.  As Gilmore was very convincing, it wasn’t long before he had convinced Innes that he should come to America to become trombone soloist of Gilmore’s Band.”

Innes arrived in New York, during the summer of 1880, going directly to Manhattan Beach, where Gilmore’s band was engaged in summer concerts. The following day Innes was programmed as soloist, following Jules Levy’s playing of his own “WhirlWind Polka”, after which Innes rose to play the same identical solo much to the astonishment of the audience, and to the genuine embarrassment of Mr. Levy,. In fact, he was furious. For one whole week, Innes continued playing, if humanly possible, any number that Levy might play.  The entire New York  music scene were talking about the battle of the “Blasters” out at Coney Island.  The newspapers played it up, consequently great crowds traveled to Manhattan Beach to see and hear the goings on.  Mr. Levy was getting madder by the minute but Gilmore was in his glory.  It was during the above mentioned engagement that Levy played a new solo written by Aronson, entitled the “Sweet Sixteen Waltz”, in which Levy injected his own extemporaneous Cadenza made up of everything he could do on the comet.  lnnes had been tipped off that Levy was going to do.  When his turn came to play, he also had something up his sleeve.  Innes had written a new solo for the trombone, entitled “Sea Shells Waltz” with a minute and one-half cadenza.  He arose to play his solo, playing with all of the skill he possessed.  Some of Levy’s followers had complained to the management about this rivalry.  Mr. Gilmore decided that Innes could play anything he wished, including Levy’s solos, but it was to be played on separate programs from Levy.  This one summer engagement gave Fred lnnes tremendous publicity, which even Gilmore had not anticipated.

Interspersed with his playing in Gilmore’s Band, he made one tour with the Mapleson Opera Company, then under the direction of the composer Arditi and at least two summer engagements with Baldwin’s Band at Point of Pines in Massachusetts.

Inries played with Gilmore’s Band until the spring of 1887, when he went to San Francisco to accept a solo engagement at the Exposition being held in the Golden Gate Park.  According to our research, we find that Innes was to play with the local band.  It seems he and the band were to be sponsored by the Market Street Railroad Company, but when Innes arrived in San Francisco, the comptroller had absconded with the money for the musicians and had left California, leaving a flock of creditors in his wake.  Innes talked with the Exposition president (a prominent banker,) a Mr. PB Cornwall, about his difficulties, who in turn conferred with the Board of Directors.  Out of this came the organization of a concert band to play at the Exposition under the direction of Mr. Innes.  He received permission to send east for a number of prominent musicians to fill positions in his band and to play several engagements at the Exposition; this was the beginning of his career as a bandmaster.  After the close of the engagement, he returned to New York, where he temporarily took over leadership of the Thirteenth Regiment Band of New York.  After a few months he organized his own traveling band and began booking engagements across the country.

Innes had always dreamed of having a purely Symphonic band, playing the classics only, but he was also a practical man and knew that the public was not ready to accept the concert band as a Symphonic organization.  He filled his programs with the classics, but he also had them interspersed with lighter music and presented many noted operatic singers.  Misses Lillian Nordica, Schumann-Heink and Alice Nielson appeared with the Innes Band.

Many of the finest musicians in the band business played at one time or another with the Innes Band, between 1887 and 1920, namely; Ben Bent, Herbert Clarke, Bert Brown, Bohumir, Kryl, I V. Short, Richard Shuebruk, Pechin and Keneke on cornet; Mantia and Manzia, euphonium; Leo-Zimmerman, Chas. Randall and Ernest Clarke trombone; Alexander Selmer, Nonito and Schreuers,  Jacob Epstein clarinet.  The personnel changing from year to year.

One of the first engagements that the Innes Band filled was in the playing of concerts at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, where his new band was received with great enthusiasm.  His first major engagement was at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893.  His band played at numerous Expositions including the Omaha Exposition in 1898, the Buffalo Exposition in 1910, St. Louis Exposition in 1904, and the San Francisco Fair in 1915.  The last important engagements of the lnnes Band were the Cotton Exposition in Waco, Texas, and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

In 1914, Innes moved to Denver, Colorado, where he succeeded Mr. Al. Sweet as conductor of the Denver Municipal Band, continuing in this capacity until 1916, when he opened his Music School; however he continued to contract outside engagements with his concert band until 1920.  Innes remained in Denver until after his wife’s death in 1923.  He moved to Chicago in 1923, where he became head of the Conn Band School.  In late 1926, he was stricken with heart trouble and died in a Chicago sanatorium on December 31, 1926. He was buried beside his wife in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A writer was fortunate enough to have conversation with Mr. Innes during the summer of 1926 in his office at the Conn Band School.  He told of the many fine performers who had played under his direction and other facets of the then dying band business.

Innes Band’s never recorded for any phonograph company. Mr. Innes never liked the idea of using small bands for recording sessions.  Neither would he allow even the mention of cutting and revising of standard overtures and selections to fit on a 10 or 12 inch disc

Innes composed several Orchestra Suites, also one Romantic Opera entitled, Ambassador.  He wote a descriptive Overture called California, and one grand march entitled Triomphale.  He also wrote a number of two step marches, one the best known being, Prince Chaffning.  His most notable solo compositions were Sea Shells Waltz, Phenomenal Polka and the Charmer Polka.

Henry Woelber once had this to say of Innes.

“Innes had very few intimates; little is known of his early history in England.  No person’s attitude here on the part of his America friends ever attracted his intimacy other than to call forth a general good comradeship and light talk.  Although a man of courage and rare intellect, he loved to frolic, and in spite of more or less adversity, he smiled; but behind that smile was plenty of sadness, disappointment, and sorrow.

The following note appeared in the International Musician, many years ago. Quoting:

“in 1913, lnnes led the annual master bar concert given by the Boston Musicians Mutual Relief Society.  After the rehearsal he strolled through the West End to have, perhaps, his last look at the old Howard Street Theater where he had played in 1874.  Then to the Charles River embankment Pausing he sighed: ‘Yes, there is the same old rooming house, with its back piazza, and pleasant memories of my canoeing days, and swinging in the old hammock in the moon light.’  Older men, later, realized why Innes was so fond of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  Masters of melody, and verse, find opportunities everywhere, for their genius.”

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7 Responses to “Biography of Frederick Neil Innes”

  1. Thomas Boyer says:

    My grandfather was the booking manager for the Innes band in the mid-late 1890′s. I have a 3″ x 6″ notebook containing various newspaper clippings and booking cards as the band toured the country. I would be glad to donate these to a researcher or archivist provided they can be put to a good use. Let me know.

  2. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really loved surfing around your weblog posts. After all I will be subscribing on your rss feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

  3. George Becker says:

    My grandfather played with the Innis Band. Not sure of the dates but I have a signed photograph on Innis. He sent it to my father wishing him a Happy Birthday. I can email a copy if someone is interested.
    gbecker2@att.net

  4. Ryan Eagan says:

    We just acquired a signed photograph of F.N. Innes that is dated 1898 and sent to his friend “Scott”. It is a cabinet card from Philadelphia, PA. He is wearing a very ornate uniform with vertical rows of medals. Does anyone have any information regarding why he would be wearing a uniform of this type? It looks like a foreign uniform, and the only military record I can find is the 7th and 13th NY Regiments.

  5. Charles Edens says:

    I happened to come across a postcard yesterday in an antique store with a picture of a young trombonist. The
    caption says: Eugene Kiefer with Innes Band, Seattle Expo,1909.” This led me to your most interesting website.
    It was delightful to read Mr. Innes’ biography. What a shame we have no recordings of him!
    Our young Mr. Kiefer must have been pretty good himself, with such a bandmaster. I wonder if he turns up in any other bands.
    As a former Army trombonist myself, I can’t help feeling a connection with players, past and present, of this difficult and beautiful instrument.
    Thanks for your informative website.

  6. Peck Allmond says:

    Interesting biography. One question: the article states that “Innes’ bands never recorded for any phonograph company.” But my grandfather Alden Webster, who played cornet with Innes, told me in a letter in 1971: “Innes had a Chicago band and a Denver band, and I was in the Denver band for several years. We made quite a few Victor records.” He goes on, listing other details of the band’s activities — but according to him, there were definitely recordings. He played with Innes in the 20′s, I think. Maybe someone knows about those records?

  7. Clark Toland says:

    I learned about Frederick Neil Innes from my father, Glenn R. Toland (b.1906) who studied at the Conn Musical College in Chicago in 1925 & 1926 and took private lessons from Mr. Innes there, completing the course for conducting and band teaching. I have a cordial note from Innes to my father asking for $15.00 for the diploma. In the fall of ’26, my father became the director of the Monmouth College Band, Monmouth, Illinois. My father said how saddened he was when Innes died in December ’26. Innes’ photo to my father reads, “To Glenn Toland, my dear friend and pupil, with appte regards. Signed F N Innes Chgo, Aug.’26″ His last words to my father were, “Toland, don’t give up the trumpet.”
    We loved hearing stories of Innes’ virtuosity and his solo duals with Jules Levy. Few modern trombonists have heard of Mr. Innes – - the greatest of the greats! How sad!




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