History of the Annual Reid Memorial Concert

The History of the Annual Reid Memorial Concert at the University of Edinburgh

The Reid Chair of Music at the University of Edinburgh was established in 1839 with funds from a bequest to the University by General John Reid (c.1721 to 1807), a distinguished military man, flautist and composer.   General Reid, who died in 1807, left the reversion of all his property, in the event of his daughter dying without issue, to the Principal and Professors of the University of Edinburgh, on condition that a Professorship of Music should be founded in the University, and endowed out of the Fund accruing from his Bequest.  

The terms of the bequest detailed in General Reid’s will, dated 19th day of April 1803, required that ‘every Year after his appointment’ the Professor ‘will cause a concert of Music to be performed on the 13th of February being my birth-day, in which shall be introduced one Solo for the German Flute, Hautbois, or Clarionet, also one March and one Minuet with accompaniments by a select Band, in order to shew the taste of music about the middle of last Century, when they were by me composed and with a view also to keeping my memory in remembrance…’.  No guidance was given as to any supporting concerts or events that the appointed Professor of Music may or may not choose to offer in addition to the annual concert. 

The first concert in memory of General Reid was in 1841 and over the years the Annual ‘Reid’ Concert has been called amongst other titles, ‘the College Concert’, ‘Reid Concert’, ‘Reid Commemoration Concert’, ‘Founder’s Concert’, ‘Reid Memorial Concert’ and, in most years since 1841, the concerts have been given on or around the 13th of February.    For the purposes of the Reid Concerts database project these concerts are all identified as “Annual Reid Concert.”

The University Senatus Academicus, on the administration of the Reid Fund being transferred into their hands by the General's Executors, were anxious to comply with the Testator's instructions and, in order to give full effect to the general purport of them, - namely, the encouragement and improvement of the musical taste of his countrymen, - they directed arrangements to be made for celebrating the anniversary of General Reid's birth-day on 13 February.  

‘In 1841 according to the terms of the Bequest; the University authorities being desirous, that upon this, the first occasion of fulfilling his wishes, the Concert should be conducted on a scale worthy of his munificence to the University, they determined that is should be opened amply to the Public of Edinburgh, and at the same time they placed a sum of £200 at the disposal of the Professor, in addition to the proceeds of the sale of tickets at the usual price for ordinary Concerts.’  They also made clear, that the whole amount of these sums was to be expended on the Concert; and that in order to apply as large a fund as possible for the purpose, ‘they have not reserved any right of entry for their families or friends.’   In the 1840s The University Senatus, in conformity with the recommendations of the Professors of Music, were of opinion, ‘that the declared wishes of the Testator, and the approbation of the Public, would be best secured by combining, with one act of the usual style of Concert Music, a selection from some of the noblest productions of the great Masters of Sacred harmony, who flourished during last century, along with those of an earlier as well as later date.’   Both the 1841 and 1842 concerts were given repeat performances such was the demand for tickets for these new and exciting events in the city.
The item selected in 1841 by Professor John Thomson to feature in the first Reid Concert, as representative of the works of General Reid, was number IV from a set of twelve marches.  In the programme booklet for the 1841 concert Thomson wrote, ‘This composition will be at once recognised as that to which the well-known verses “In the garb of old Gaul” have been written.  Any other March might have been selected from the set, but it was thought that the performance of this fine melody in its original form would prove interesting, more particularly as the public are now, for the first time, made aware of the name of the author to whom they are indebted for one of the most vigorous and spirit-stirring of our adopted National Songs.’  The words have been attributed to Sir Harry Erskine (1710 -1765) and were described by Robert Burns as ‘This excellent loyal Scottish song.’   The following spirited words are adapted to the music of the march:

In the garb of old Gaul
In the garb of old Gaul, with the fire of old Rome,
From the heath-covered mountains of Scotia we come;
Where the Romans endeavoured our country to gain,
But our ancestors fought, and they fought not in vain.
Such our love of liberty, our country, and our laws,
That like our ancestors of old, we stand by freedom’s cause;
We’ll bravely fight, like heroes bright, for honour and applause,
And defy the French, with all their arts, to alter our laws.

No effeminate customs our sinews unbrace,
No luxurious tables enervate our race;
Our loud sounding pipe bears the true martial strain,
So do we the old Scottish valour retain.
Such our love, etc.

As a storm in the ocean when Boreas blows,
So are we enraged when we rush on our foes;
We sons of the mountains, tremendous as rocks,
Dash the force of our foes with our thundering strokes.
Such our love, etc.

In the nineteenth-century this annual Reid concert became a feature of musical culture in the city and an opportunity to hear leading musicians of the day perform a range of orchestral and chamber music alongside the music of General Reid.  For this concert the Professor of Music was the person who co-ordinated the performance arrangements, determined what music was heard and who performed.  The concerts they put together reflected through their individual interpretations of the wishes of their benefactor, General John Reid, not only their personal styles and influences but also the social and cultural life of Edinburgh at the time and the significance of Music as a discipline in the University of Edinburgh.  The format and content of the Reid concerts demonstrated the imagination and style of the Professors and expressed their personality and musical ideas through their choices of music.

From 1867 to 1891 under Professor Herbert Stanley Oakeley the annual concert featured the four pieces, ‘Introduction, Pastorale, Minuet and March’ in orchestral arrangement.  This work composed by General Reid in the middle of the eighteenth-century, probably originally written for flute or violin and bass, was orchestrated in 1842 by Professor Henry Bishop, the second Reid Professor of Music and again in 1855 by Carl Anschütz.   It was the Anschütz version that was most often played during this period and the march in this work corresponded to number IV of the ‘Twelve Marches,’ the one to which the words, “In the garb of old Gaul” were set.  It became tradition for both the orchestra and the audience to stand during the playing of this march.

When Professor Frederick Niecks came to organise his first Reid Concert in 1892 he found the only options available to him in the University library were the arrangements of the four pieces ‘Introduction, Pastorale, Minuet and March’ and the ‘Twelve Marches.’  In the concert programme for the 1892 Reid Concert Frederick Niecks gave a little more information about the, ‘Twelve Marches,’ which he noted had been arranged for a full band of wind instruments by "the celebrated Mr Winter, late composer for the Opera in London."  As Peter Winter was in London from 1803 to 1805, it is likely that the Reid Marches must have been published after this time."  For the 1892 and 1893 concerts Niecks conducted the orchestra, in the Anschütz arrangement of the ‘Introduction, Pastorale, Minuet and March’.   In subsequent years Niecks introduced historical chamber concerts to illustrate his lectures on music and chose to represent the music of General Reid at the annual concert with selections from and arrangements of the ‘Introduction, Pastorale, Minuet and March,’ for keyboard or string quartet.

It was the March No. IV as scored by Peter Winter that was selected by Professor Tovey to be performed by the newly-formed Reid Orchestra in its first concert on 5 May 1917, the Annual Reid Concert 1917.  In the printed programme book for the concert, Professor Donald Francis Tovey writes: "By the terms of General Reid's Bequest, one of his Marches is to be performed at the 'Reid Concert,' to be held on or after his birthday.  The present March was, at an early period in the musical history of Edinburgh, furnished with a spirited poem, from which it takes its title; and as soon as the Reid Orchestra can join forces with a chorus, the custom of treating this March as our 'Gaudeamus' chant will be revived ... He further stipulated that the selections from his compositions should 'include a solo for flute, clarinet,' or other instrument.  This modest demand came to be misinterpreted in a past so remote that no Reid Professor within living memory has had any chance of suspecting that the clumsy and pretentious orchestral scraps hitherto known as 'the Reid Music' have done gross injustice to 'the taste of his time and the perpetuation of his memory.'  The March is performed standing, according to custom."   The ‘Reid Music’ to which Professor Tovey referred was the compilation, ‘Introduction, Pastorale, Minuet and March,’ orchestrated by Bishop in 1842 and Anschutz in 1855.   Having found a set of General Reid’s sonatas being buried inside a nondescript volume of other works, Tovey was able to identify the source material for the ‘Reid Music.’

‘Six solos for a German Flute, Hautboy or Violin with a Thorough Bass for the Harpsichord being a second edition composed by GENERAL REID
Pr. 5s. London.  Printed by H. Wright, N. 13 Catharine Street, Strand where may be had a second book of solos.'

He identified the ‘Introduction’ as the slow movement from Reid’s third sonata; the ‘Pastorale’ as the slow movement from his first sonata; the ‘Minuet’ as also from the third sonata, followed by two variations and the trio as the minuet of the sixth sonata.    Each of the Annual Reid Concerts given by Professor Tovey between 1917 and 1940, either with the Reid Symphony Orchestra or as part of his historical concerts series, featured the March, ‘In the garb of old Gaul’ or one of General Reid’s sonatas for flute or violin and continuo. Tovey never used the ‘Reid Music.’

Tovey’s successor, Professor Sidney Newman continued with this format and gradually reintroduced the ‘Introduction, Pastorale, Minuet and March’ for some of the Annual Reid concerts.  The 1956 annual concert featured Reid’s March: "For Lord MacDonald's highlands" and the Air: "Atholl House." In the 1960 and 1970s further works by General Reid were added to repertoire of works available for the Annual Reid concert, including the "March for the 3rd regt. of foot, Lord Amherst's," the Minuet no. 16 in C for wind instruments and more of the solo sonatas for flute or violin.   As more concerts are added to the Reid Concerts database this history will be updated in due course.

The date of General Reid’s birth-day was taken from his will as 13 February and the annual concert in his memory has been celebrated in the University of Edinburgh, as part of the University concert series, on or around this date in most years from 1841 to the present day.