John Hullah

John Pyke Hullah (27 June 1812 – 21 February 1884), English composer and teacher of music, was born at Worcester.

He was a pupil of William Horsley from 1829, and entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1833. He wrote an opera to words by Dickens, The Village Coquettes, produced in 1836; The Barbers of Bassora in 1837, and The Outpost in 1838, the last two at Covent Garden. From 1839, when he went to Paris to investigate various systems of teaching music to large masses of people, he identified himself with Wilhem's system of the fixed "Do," and his adaptation of that system was taught with enormous success from 1840 to 1860. His first ever lesson was given at the Battersea College for training teachers (now University St Mark and St John Plymouth),in 1840, at the instigation of educationalist and college Principal James Kay Shuttleworth. One of his famous pupils was Edmund Hart Turpin.

In 1847 a large building in Long Acre, called St Martin's Hall, was built by subscription and presented to Hullah. It was inaugurated in 1850 and burnt to the ground in 1860, a blow from which Hullah was long in recovering. In 1849 William Sterndale Bennett, founder and chairman of the Bach Society, invited Hullah to join his committee with a view to producing the first English performance of Johann Sebastian Bach'sSt Matthew Passion, which took place on 6 April 1854. As a sight-singing pioneer, Hullah produced his popular series Vocal Scores (1846) and Part-Music (1867). A series of lectures was given at the Royal Institution in 1861, and in 1864 he lectured in Edinburgh, but in the following year he was unsuccessful in his application for the Reid professorship.

He conducted concerts in Edinburgh in 1866 and 1867, and the concerts of the Royal Academy of Music from 1870 to 1873; he had been elected to the committee of management in 1869. In 1872 he was appointed by the Council of Education as Musical Inspector of Training Schools for the United Kingdom. In 1878 he went abroad to report on the condition of musical education in schools, and wrote a very valuable report, quoted in the memoir of him published by his wife in 1886. He was attacked by paralysis in 1880, and again in 1883.

Dr. Hullah was Honorary Fellow of King's College, London, and Professor of Vocal Music at Queen's College, London and Bedford College, London. He succeeded Dr. Horsley as organist of the Charterhouse (in its original London location) in 1858, and held the post until his death. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Edinburgh in 1876.

His compositions, which remained popular for some years after his death in 1884, consisted mainly of ballads (such as his musical adaptation of Charles Kingsley's poem, "Three Fishers"); but his importance in the history of music is owing to his exertion in popularizing musical education, and his persistent opposition to the Tonic sol-fa system, which had a success he could not foresee. His objections to it were partly grounded on the character of the music which was in common use among the early teachers of the system.

His widow Frances Rosser Hullah published a biography of her late husband.

Birth and Death Data: Born June 27, 1812 (Worcester), Died February 21, 1884 (London)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1903 - 1929

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.


Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-834 10-in. 12/15/1903 Three fishers Albert Borroff Bass vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor B-14216 10-in. 12/18/1913 Three fishers went sailing Gertrude Penfield Seiberling Female vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor C-16530 12-in. 9/21/1915 Three fishers Herbert Witherspoon Bass vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-29460 10-in. 2/11/1924 Three fishers went sailing Kathryn Meisle Female vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Columbia W149021 10-in. 9/19/1929 Three fishers went sailing Walter Golde ; Louis Graveure Tenor vocal solo, with piano composer  
Columbia 6356 12-in. approximately 1913 Three fishers went sailing Carrie Herwin Female vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Columbia 6668 12-in. approximately 1915 The three fishers Clara Butt Contralto vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Edison 5882 10-in. 11/14/1917 Three fishers Arthur Middleton Baritone vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Gramophone 4558f 12-in. 10/29/1910 Three fishers Clara Butt Soprano vocal solo, with piano composer  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Hullah, John," accessed March 22, 2023,

Hullah, John. (2023). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from

"Hullah, John." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2023. Web. 22 March 2023.

DAHR Persistent Identifier


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