John Cottam Holliday was born in London in 1887 and studied at the Guildhall School. He was pianist (touring England, America and Canada as Albert Chevalier’s accompanist – Holliday’s wife was née Ivy Chevalier – and also as a solo pianist), chorus master for many years at Drury Lane and composer. He served in both World Wars, in the Honourable Artillery Company in 1914-1918 and in the Observer Corps between 1940 and 1944.
His portfolio of compositions affords considerable variety, not least in its song content although must are light hearted in character. Some were written for concert parties like the Co-optimists and Five O’Clock Follies. One fancies Turn Again Whittington figured in pantomime. Others were ballad like in character, like The Bells of Home, The End of the Road, Here to You, A Morning Prayer, Likes and Dislikes, The Old Home and When All the Children Pray; Sealights, a sequence of three songs explore differing maritime themes. Chumleigh Fair and The Town Crier were lively numbers; The Missus and Isuggests the music hall, while When Noah Went Sailing and another sequence, of six brief songs,Odds and Ends, were suitable for children.
Much of Holliday’s output was indeed aimed at children. Many of his orchestral items were arranged by others. Arthur Wood of Barwick Green fame, did the honours for the "danse fantastique"Punchinello, the children’s march Tom Tiddler (recently I heard that a scratch orchestra near Newbury was reviving this), the dances Dodman Rock and Dickon O’Devon and possibly also the Morris DanceSkipton Rig (which could almost have found a place in Arthur Wood’s My Native Heath). H M Higgs orchestrated the children’s dances May Day at Helston, Zennor and Keltic Dance; others helped out with Hampstead Heath (Easter Monday), Greeze Dance (Old Cornish Custom) and Frontier March. Cap and Bells, a Children’s Suite, made up of arrangements of the five nursery rhymes Boys and Girls,London Bridge, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Little Bo-Peep and Pop Goes the Weasel was given orchestral form by Frank Tapp.
This biography first appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’, December 2010.
Three compositions by John Holliday are available on Guild Music’s ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ CDs:
GLCD5107 Frontier March
GLCD5107 May Day At Helston
GLCD5118 Dickon O’Devon