(1858-1907) composer and musician, was born into a musical family on June 30th, 1858 in Bowdoinham and was known as a cornet virtuoso, bandmaster and composer of marches. Among his compositions is the Fort Popham March.
His father played E flat cornet in a local band and was his son’s first cornet instructor. R. B. Hall continued playing cornet and eventually took lessons and received much encouragement from Mr. Melvin Andrews, a music store owner in Bangor. The first march that Hall composed entitled “M.H.A.”, was dedicated to Mr. Andrews.
Hall was an outstanding cornetist with tremendous playing range. It is said that while marching in parades, he would play certain strains an octave higher than written. You always knew when his band was coming!!
At age 19, Hall was director of the Richmond Cornet Band. His first three marches written for that band were”RCB1, RCB2 and RBC3″!! In 1878 Hall auditioned for the J. T. Baldwin’s First Corps of Cadets Band in Boston and shared the solo cornet chair with Allesandro Liberati for four years. Passing up other tempting offers, Hall accepted a call to rebuild the Bangor Band. He did the job so well that a week of tribute to him in 1884 culminated with the presentation of a gold Boston Three Star Ne-Plus cornet by the grateful citizens of Bangor. Hall responded by composing the march “Greetings to Bangor”!!
Hall was associated with several other bands including the Cherryfield Band, Chandler’s Band, Waterville Military Band (later known as R. B. Hall’s Military Band), Olympia Band of Augusta, and the Colby College Band. During this period he took time to rebuild the “musically bankrupt” Tenth Regiment Band of Albany, New York. Hall left the Albany assignment to work as musical director of Waterville’s Centennial Celebration in 1901. While in Waterville several of his finest marches were written.
Besides dedicating his compositions to people and places, dedications included local characters (“Uncle Dooley’s Delight”), newspapers (“Richmond Bee”), and Fraternal Orders (“Demolay Commandery”) for the Knight Templars, (“The Redman’s March”) for the Improved Order of Redmen, (“Exhalted Ruler”) for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and (“Independentia”) for the Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Hall died on June 8, 1907 in Portland, Maine. He had published 62 marches during his lifetime. The funeral procession included the Olympia Band, the Waterville Military Band, and Chandler’s Band. “Funebre”, “Eternal Rest” and “Independentia” were among the Hall compositions played that day. After his death, his wife sold many of his manuscripts. The buyer patched up the manuscripts and sold them under the R. B. Hall name.
Hall received important recognition during and after his lifetime, including John Philips Sousa playing a Hall march at the Paris Exposition in 1900. His marches were also popular with British bands. A memorial program was given to his honor on August 14, 1936 in Waterville. During this event, a Memorial Band Stand was dedicated to R. B. Hall’s memory. A bill was approved by Maine Governor Brennan on May 11, 1981 to establish an R. B. Hall Day, the last Sunday in June, to honor and commemorate him.
Since then “R.B. Hall Days” celebrations have been held across the state, including South Portland (1985), Brewer (1986), Augusta (1987), Fairfield (1999), Farmington (2002), and Lincolnville (2003).
A march by Maine composer Robert Browne Hall was played during the funeral procession held for President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
“6th Annual R. B. Hall Day: University of Maine at Augusta, Saturday, June 27, 1987.” Maine. 1987. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]
Bardwell, Thomas C. Collection 1870’s-1960’s. (Cataloger Note: A collection of materials related to Maine band leader and composer, R. B. Hall. Collection includes correspondence of Thomas C. Bardwell and items of and about R.B. Hall. Scores and sheet music of Hall’s compositions comprise much of the collection.) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]
Bowie, Gordon W. R.B. Hall and His Bands: A Biography. Washington, DC Serendipity Press. c2007.
Bowie, Gordon W. R.B. Hall and the Community Bands of Maine. 1993. [[University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library]