Hiss & Boo would like to acknowledge the enormous amount of research which Michael Kilgarriff has put in to locating Music Hall Songs / Artistes. The following information is used with Michael’s kind permission and I urge you to seek out and buy his excellent books!


When asked where copies of Music Hall songs may be found I always give the same answer: in the first instance search the British Library.  If  your title is listed in the online catalogue you can go to the BL at St Pancras, London, on the corner of Euston Road and Midland Road, and obtain a Reader’s Ticket (ring 0330 333 1144 for required application documentation – driver's licence, passport, utility bill, etc).  You may then order the sheet music through the computerised system and copy it out by hand (items may not be taken off the premises and copying must be done in pencil).  Subject to copyright considerations some single sheets may be photocopied on the premises by Readers but bound song sheets may only be photographed by BL staff.

For help in using the BL online catalogue go to http://explore.bl.uk and put your song title in Main catalogue.  Having found your song make a careful note of  the shelf-mark as it is essential to quote this when ordering.  (If you want to narrow your search click on Advanced Search, Material Type, Scores and then enter the title or significant word.) Note that shelf marks are case sensitive and that all punctuation (i.e. the full-stops) must be keyed in. 

If London is too far from home an order form may be obtained by telephoning British Library Reproductions on 01937 546060 or faxing 01937 546333.  Or you may order online from http://www.bl.uk/imaging. The minimum cost at the time of writing is c.£25 + VAT (more for overseas orders) for up to 100 pages.  Allow up to twenty-five working days for delivery.           

Another important collection of Music Hall songs is kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford where you may copy items out by hand and also photocopy, or you may prefer to take advantage of the postal service whose charges are similar to the BL’s.   Ring 01865 277062 and ask for the Music Section.  Visit the catalogue at www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/solo. Each entry offers a detailed description of every song sheet in the collection, including first lines of verses and choruses.  Again make a note of the cataloguing details (Location and Call Number) before ordering.

Photocopies may be ordered online from:

Some 70 catalogues, including the Bodleian and the BL, may be searched simultaneously through http://copac.ac.uk.

Information about songs, though not actual copies, may be gleaned from Mechanical Copyright Protection Society/The Performing Right Society which list titles under their current copyright holders.  Send your queries by email to details@MCPS.co.uk or by fax to 0207 306 4350. Queries are no longer dealt with by phone.

The National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) has a collection of Music Hall songs, pantomime songs, musical comedy songs, and sheet music of all kinds.  For copies phone 08707 702480.

The British Music Hall Society’s affable historian Max Tyler is always willing, on payment of a voluntary donation to the Society’s funds, to share the secrets of his vast collection of song sheets with enquirers on max@maxtyler.orangehome.co.uk

A site which claims access to over 72,000 titles is http://www.sheetmusicwarehouse.co.uk; their fee is around £8 per song.

Also try www.musicroom.com which offers instrumental arrangements as well as vocal sheet music. Piano, vocal, & guitar arrangements (also accordion and easy piano) may be purchased for around £2.25 a copy from Sheetmusicdirect.com located at 14-15 Berners Street, London W1T 3LJ.

Dinosaur Discs have an immense collection of old 78s and will send you copies, or make up a compilation on CD.  See their website or phone 01692 631 540.  Another useful website for Music Hall CDs is Windyrush; their URL is http://www.musichallcds.com/index.html.

Thousands of American songs can be downloaded in audio from www.parlorsongs.com.  Another enormous collection of US songs from the 18th century to the 1960s from which sheet music, including covers, can be downloaded is on http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/

A very useful book which should be in your local reference library is The Oxford Companion to Popular Music (1991) by Peter Gammond.  My own Sing Us One of the Old Songs (OUP 1998) covers popular song from 1860-1920.

Over 1,100 comic poems and monologues for men and women may be found on http://monologues.co.uk/, an extremely valuable website assembled by Paul Wilkinson under the title Make ‘Em Laugh (not to be confused with books by myself and Eric Midwinter with the same title).  All the favourites are there from the repertoires of Albert Chevalier, Marriott Edgar, Stanley Holloway, Billy Bennett, Joyce Grenfell, Gracie Fields, Elsie & Doris Waters, etc.  Hundreds more monologues of all kinds for all ages from the classic repertoire (Chekhov, Shakespeare, etc) are accessible on http://www.monologuearchive.com/

A huge number of song lyrics may be found on http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/p.html while the music of thousands of more modern titles may be downloaded (for a fee) from http://www.musicnotes.com, a site which also offers a choice of keys.  There are many other sites which offers similar services, some of which do not charge, so it’s worth a few minutes surfing to see whether they are available.

Another fruitful site, containing over 3,000 titles, is Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920, from which songs may be downloaded in full from http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/hasm/

Music Notes is an American site boasting over 300,000 titles.  Details on http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdVPE.asp?ppn=MN0083769

Michael Kilgarriff
As at September 2015
© Michael  Kilgarriff 2015

PS: If you find any of the above information incorrect or out of date please let me know on michael@kilgarriff.org.uk



For more information contact:
Ian Liston, The Hiss & Boo Company
1 Nyes Hill, Wineham Lane, Bolney, West Sussex, RH17 5SD
Tel : +44 (0)1444 881707 / Fax : +44 (0)1444 882057
Email : ian@hissboo.co.uk