In the nineteenth century it was very common to commemorate major victories in battle with pieces of music. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was no exception and in 1857 after the British had successfully recaptured Delhi from the mutineers a march in honour of this accomplishment was written by John Pridham, a school teacher from Taunton. The piece of music was published with a wonderfully engraved cover depicting the triumphant entry into Delhi by the British commander, General Wilson:The general sits astride his horse, with troops surrounding him, the flag of the United Kingdom prominent in the centre of the image and the oriental towers of Delhi hidden in the smoke behind. The image is both romanticised and triumphant and would have appealed the nineteenth century British mind-set. It is hard to date this exact piece of sheet music, as the music was republished several times over the latter half of the nineteenth century. I suspect my copy dates from one of the later print runs, but I cannot find any date of printing on the work at all.
Jeffrey Richards in his book ‘Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876-1953’ provides this description of the piece of music:
The descriptive fantasia for piano of a battle or other military event became a stock item of the nineteenth-century musical repertoire. John Pridham’s zestful piano fantasia The Battle march of Delhi (1857), a military divertimento ‘descriptive of the triumphant entry into Delhi’, boasted a sheet music cover picture of the victorious general entering the Indian capital with kilted Scots troops. Each separate element of the scene is signalled in the score. It opens with the clock of the Palace of the Great Mogul striking four, and then a gentle pastoral interlude to suggest the break of day. This is interrupted by the rumble of distant drums- a repeated low-toned trill- and then a return to the pastoral theme broken by the morning bugle call. The rumbling notes of the drums indicates the mutineers in possession of Delhi, and an Indian air which sounds more like an English country dance than an Oriental melody. Then a bass drum, and trumpet call, and ‘the Mutineers are alarmed at the approach of the British cavalry’- jaunty, jogging, horse riding music. The spirited cavalry march culminates in ‘General Wilson’s arrival at the Cashmere Gate’: drums, gunfire from the mutineers, trumpet call for troops to form order of battle (‘General Wilson orders an immediate attack’) and there is a charge in musical form, the rumble of cannon and mortar, and the flight of the mutineers: musical notes indicate ‘Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, they fly’, and then there are successive passages from “Smile on in Hope”, “Old England” and the trumpets leading to “See, the Conquering Hero Comes” (marked ‘majestic’) and, after more trumpets, “The Campbells are Coming”. Vividly, stirringly and economically, it told in musical form the story of the capture of Delhi. It was originally issued in 1857, re-issued in 1858, 1859, 1880, 1902 and 1904, and was still current in the 1940s as a veritable old war-horse of the parlour piano repertoire.I do not suppose that this piece of sheet music is particularly rare considering the number of reprints it went through, but it is an attractive and interesting little addition to my collection and only cost me a pound.