Harold Fraser-Simson was born in London, 15 August 1878. He died at Inverness, 19 January 1944.
Educated at Charterhouse and King's College, Fraser-Simson was at first involved in the world of commercial shipping, successfully operating, from an office in Mincing Lane, as a ship-owner. His first appearance in the musical theatre was with the score for the colourful, if old-fashioned, comic opera Bonita, for which he organized a West End production, directed by no less a luminary than Granville Barker, in 1911. Bonita lasted only 42 performances, but its music was sufficiently well received for its composer to be offered, five years later, the opportunity of composing the score for Robert Evett's Daly's Theatre musical, The Maid of the Mountains.
The enormous success of this show, and of his individual songs ('Farewell', 'Love Will Find a Way', 'Husbands and Wives'), set Fraser-Simson firmly in place as one of the most touted show composers of the time, and he subsequently supplied the scores for Even for two other vehicles for Maid of the Mountains star Jose Collins, A Southern Maid and Our Peg. The first of these followed The Maid of the Mountains into Daly's and had another remark-able success; the second, frozen out of Evett's London theatre by the long-running success of the other two, played only in the provinces and was later adapted into Our Nell (the original heroine, Peg Woffington, being replaced by Nell Gwynne for presumably commercial reasons) and played at the Gaiety.
The touring musical Missy Jo, a vehicle for comic W H Berry called Head Over Heels, and the remade Our Nell had only limited lives, but Fraser-Simson scored another fine success when he teamed again with Frederick Lonsdale on the romantic artists-in-Montmartre musical, The Street Singer, which ran nearly a year at the Lyric Theatre and toured widely thereafter.
The pretty Betty in Mayfair did prettily at the Adelphi the following year, but Fraser-Simson's most enduring work after The Maid was his last, a sprightly and lovable musical setting of Kenneth Grahame's Toad of Toad Hall as dramatized by A A Milne. This piece became a British Christmas annual and its success prompted the compilation in 1970 of a Winnie the Pooh, put together from Milne's book and Fraser-Simson's settings of the Pooh lyrics as the song-cycle The Hums of Pooh ('Christopher Robin is Saying His Prayers', `They're Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace'). Winnie the Pooh also proved, for many years, a regular festive season favourite.
1911 Bonita (Wadham Peacock) Queen's Theatre 22 September
1916 The Maid of the Mountains (Harry Graham/Frederick Lonsdale) Prince's Theatre, Manchester 23 December; Daly's Theatre 10 February 1917
1917 A Southern Maid (Dion Clayton Calthrop, Graham/ Harry Miller) Prince's Theatre, Manchester 24 December; Daly's Theatre 15 May 1920
1919 Our Peg (Graham/Edward Knoblock) Prince's Theatre, Manchester 24 December
1921 Missy Jo (Graham/James Clive) Folkestone 4 July
1923 Head Over Heels (Adrian Ross, Graham/Seymour Hicks) Adelphi Theatre 8 September
1924 Our Nell (revised Our Peg) (w Ivor Novello/Louis N Parker, Reginald Arkell) Gaiety Theatre 16 April
1924 The Street Singer (Percy Greenbank/Lonsdale) Lyric Theatre 27 June
1925 Betty in Mayfair (Graham/J Hastings Turner) Adelphi Theatre 11 November
1929 Toad of Toad Hall (A A Milne) Liverpool 17 December/ Lyric Theatre 17 December 1930
1970 Winnie the Pooh (ad Julian Slade/Milne) Phoenix Theatre 17 December
Adapted from The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre by Kurt Gänzl.
Page created 25 December 2003