Frank Maurice Jephson

1886 to 20 April 1917

Frank Maurice Jephson (1886 to 20 April 1917), referred to as F. Maurice Jephson on his compositions, was an organist and composer, whose principal published output mainly consists of piano music, with some music for organs and choirs.

Regrettably, there is little biographical detail available, but an obituary was published in the Musical Times in 1917 which gives us a few snippets of his life.

Born in Derby to Mr T and Mrs E Jephson, he gained the Associate Diploma of the Royal College of Organists (ARCO) and by age 16 he was assistant organist at Westbourne Park Church in Derby, later moving to London to becoming organist of the Presbyterian Church, Richmond in 1904. It is unclear if he was himself a Presbyterian. He was married and lived at an address near Kew Gardens, London.

He was also accompanist of the Arundel Male-Voice Choir, with various references to this role surviving in the Musical Times of the 1910s. It was most likely for this ensemble that he composed a male voice setting of John Donne "Send back my long stray'd eyes to me" (published 1930) and an arrangement for men's voices and orchestra of "The Arethusa" (1916, credited on the score to William Shield, although now considered to by an earlier anonymous composer) which is still available in the Novello back catalogue.

Probably the most interesting reference in his obituary is mention of his day job; "For some time he was associated in business with Dr. Charles Vincent, and recently he held a responsible position in the Orchestrelle Company."

The Orchestrelle Company (also known as the Aeolian Company) were a New York-based firm which sold musical instruments, and were particularly famous for selling pianolas, self-playing pianos, which usually took the form of an upright piano with an apparatus inside which played the keys from grid pattern on a paper roll, here demonstrated on YouTube (not one of his compositions):

These were popular novelty items around the turn of the century, offering a "live" performance of piano music inside the home of far superior quality to recordings then available on gramophones or phonograph machines. In 1903 the Orchestrelle Company purchased the loss-making Grosvenor Gallery in New Bond Street and renamed it the Aeolian Hall. This housed the firm's offices, showroom, and a concert hall, and one assumes that Frank worked at this place in some capacity, either as a salesman, demonstrator or perhaps even as a transcriber/arranger of music for the piano rolls.

The company continued until well into the 1920s when pianolas went out of fashion, with the Hall becoming a popular Central London venue. During the Second World War the hall (which still exists today) was taken over by the BBC and used as a regular venue for broadcasting concerts and recitals up until 1975.

Frank's compositional output seems to date largely from the period 1911-1913, possibly as a result of his acquaintance with Dr Vincent, who also published pieces for piano and organ, although his widow evidently continued to submit his pieces for publication well into the 1920s and 1930s - his John Donne setting for choir was only published in 1930.

A recording of his organ work "Gaudeamus" played by Dr James Garratt of Manchester University has recently been made available on YouTube:

Midi files of two of his organ works are also available at the Bardic Music website, the sound of which suggests his music for his own instrument was in a typically late Victorian/Edwardian idiom. Other than the more sober-sounding organ works, the titles of his works suggest his piano music was in a ligher, popular vein; perhaps even suitable for the instruments he sold.

Frank joined the 1st/5th Bn. London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) and held the rank of Rifleman. He died of wounds sustained in action, possibly at the Battle of Arras, in a base hospital at Etaples on 20th April 1917 and was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

I regret that I have been unable to source a photograph of Frank Maurice Jephson for this article.

Obituary: Frank Maurice Jephson in The Musical Times, Vol. 58, No. 892 (Jun. 1, 1917), pp. 263-264
Review: "The Arethusa by W. Shield; Frank M. Jephson" in The Musical Times, Vol. 57, No. 877 (Mar. 1, 1916), p. 151
Rifleman F.M. Jephson, Find a Grave
Rifleman F.M. Jephson, Roll of Honour

List of catalogued works
Below is a list of works held by the British Library, which (except where noted) are for piano and were published by the London firm Joseph Williams.

Arabesque (1913)
Autumn "romance for piano" (1912)
Brownies: two short pieces for the piano (1924)
A Country Dance/A Woodland Dance (1927)
Danse Humoresque (1913)
"Dear golden Days" a song with words by P. J. O'Reilly (London: Novello & Co, 1918)
Five Pieces for Piano (1911)
Gaudeamus, for organ (London: The Organ Loft, 1911)
Hunting Song (1911)
Idyll (1912)
Impromptu (1911),
Marionettes "A Characteristic Sketch for the Piano" (1912)
Melody (1911)
"My Scotch Lassie" song with words by F. G. Bowles (J. Williams, 1914)
On the Hill-side (1917)
Postlude in C minor for Organ (reprinted by Bardic Music, 2002)
"Send back my long stray'd eyes to me" for male voice choir (TTBB) words by John Donne (Joseph Williams, c1930.)
Six Easy Pieces (On the Hillside, The Tin Soldier, Minuet, The Irish Piper, A Country Dance, Harlequin) (1914)
Two Little Waltzes (Joseph Williams, c1924)
Waltz in C (1911)