Robert Browne Hall (30 June 1858, Bowdoinham, Me. – 8 June 1907, Portland, Me.), usually known as R. B. Hall, was a leading composer of marches and other music for brass bands.
Hall’s early musical education was a result of growing up in a musical family. His father, Nathaniel W. Hall, in addition to his occupation as a blacksmith, was an E-flat cornet player and leader of the Nobleboro Silver Cornet Band. He died when R.B. Hall was 16 years old. Hall’s mother, Virginia Lodoeska Browne, was an accomplished performer on the piano, guitar, violin and harp. A piano teacher and leader of the Browne Family Orchestra, Virginia gave Hall a thorough foundation in musical fundamentals.
Hall began the serious study of the cornet at age 16 and studied with Herbert Mansir of Richmond and Newall Perkins of Lewiston. At about this time, he switched from the E-flat to the B-flat cornet. He shortly became leader of the Richmond Cornet Band, was soon performing professionally at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, and later performed with Baldwin’s First Corps of Cadets Band in Boston.
Hall returned to Richmond in 1878, re-assuming leadership of the Richmond Cornet Band and increasing its fame until he departed in 1882 for Bangor. In Bangor, Hall played with Andrews Dance Orchestra and in the theater pits, and shortly became leader of the Bangor Band, which he thoroughly reorganized and made into one of the finest and most active bands in the state. Hall’s first commercially successful marches were written in 1884 while he was in Bangor. They were M.H.A, dedicated to his mentor in the Bangor music business, Melville H. Andrews; followed by Adjutant Bridge, Kineo, and General Mitchell.
During 1890 and 1891, Hall moved to Waterville and founded the Waterville Military Band, with which he was associated for the remainder of his life. His greatest output of music was created while he lived in Waterville, and was written for the Waterville Military Band to play at its concerts, parades and excursions. In 1895, Hall spent six months as leader of the 10th Regiment Band in Albany, NY. His 10th Regiment March was dedicated to this band and produced a strong association between Hall and Albany.
Hall's music has traveled around the world. He is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, so much so that many lovers of brass band music there mistakenly imagine that Hall is an English composer. His celebrated march Death or Glory, written in 1895 and dedicated to the Tenth Regiment Band in Albany, New York, is a well-known staple of brass band concerts and competitions all over the UK.
Hall was famous during his lifetime as a particularly fine player on the cornet and served for a time as conductor of the Bangor Band. As soloist, conductor, composer and teacher, Hall is still remembered in Maine. The last Saturday in June every year is officially Robert Browne Hall Day in the state of Maine. Having suffered a stroke in 1902 from which he never recovered, he died in poverty in Portland as a result of nephritis five years later. He left over a hundred marches and other compositions.
Works for Winds
- Creole Queen, The
- Felicitas (1914)
- Independentia (arr. Rhea) 1895/1922/2007)
- Independentia March (1895/1922)
- The New Colonial March (arr. Glover) (1901/2015)
- The New Colonial March (arr. McAlister) (1901)
- Officer of the Day March (1903)
- Resilient (1914)
- SIBA March (1895)
- Tenth Regiment March (arr. Balent) (1895/2004)
- Veni, Vedi, Vici (1896)