John Pyke Hullah

Photograph of Hullah by Elliott & Fry, 1860s

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;[1] The Barbers of Bassora in 1837,[2] 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. One of his famous pupils was Edmund Hart Turpin.[3]

c.1850 print of the interior of St Martin's Hall.

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 the St Matthew Passion which duly took place on 6 April 1854.[4] 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 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 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.[5] He succeeded Dr. Horsley as organist of the Charterhouse (in its original London location) in 1858, and held the post until his death.[6] He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Edinburgh in 1876.[7]

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.[8]



  1. J. Hullah & C. Dickens, The village coquettes: a comic opera in two acts (Richard Bentley, London 1836). See Walter Dexter, Dickens's Correspondence with John Hullah: hitherto unpublished from the collection of the Count de Suzannet (Walter Dexter, London 1933).
  2. J. Hullah & John Maddison Morton, The barbers of Bassora: a comic opera in two acts (Chapman & Hall, London c. 1837).
  3. Edmund Hart Turpin,, Retrieved 16 December 2014
  4. JR Sterndale Bennett, "The Life of William Sterndale Bennett" (Cambridge, 1907) p 204
  5. Back matter: 'Works by John Hullah' (Longmans advertising supplement in The Third or Transition Period of Musical History (1876)).
  6. F. Hullah, Life of John Hullah LL.D (Longmans, Green & Co., London 1886), p. 74.
  7. F. Hullah, Life of John Hullah LL.D, p. 207.
  8. Frances Hullah, Life of John Hullah, LL.D., by his Wife (Longmans, Green & Co., London 1886). Read here (Archive)

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Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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