On the Death of Major-General Brock by J.H.R.

Push On, brave York Volunteers
by John David Kelly, 1896. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Low-bending o’er the rugged bier,
The soldier drops the mournful tear
For life departed, valor driven
Fresh from the fields of death to Heaven.

But time shall fondly trace the name
Of Brock, upon the scrolls of Fame,
And those bright laurels, which should wave
Upon the brow of one so brave
Shall flourish vernal o’er his grave.

Source: McCabe, Kevin.  (ed.) The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines: Blarney Stone Books, 1999. Previously published in F.B. Tupper (ed.) The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock. 2nd ed. London, 1847. Poem is undated.

Composer and conductor Harris Loewen set this poem to music, with the score published by Renforth Music Publishing (New Brunswick) under the title Tears and Laurels. At the publisher’s request, the lyrics were slightly altered to create a version of the musical score that is non-specific, allowing it to function as an elegy for any war veteran. However, this recording was used on the publisher’s website. Many thanks to Prof. Loewen for permission to post this here.

Listen to Tears and Laurels 

Prof. Loewen writes: 

This track, as well as At Niagara Falls and Peaceful Niagara,* appear on the CD Voices of Niagara 5: Beauty is Before Me, the last in a choral CD series featuring music writing by Niagara composers. I believe that all the recordings in the series may still be available through the Dept. of Music at Brock University. Incidentally, John Butler’s choral arrangement of Macdonnell on the Heights (Stan Rogers) also appears on this CD.

You will notice that, coincidentally, all three pieces are originally written for male voices (although scores for other voicings are now also published). These tracks were all recorded, here in Niagara, by the combined male singers of Avanti Chamber Singers and the Brock University choirs. So, this is “home-grown” material in every sense.

At Niagara Falls and Peaceful Niagara were commissioned by the Niagara Men’s Chorus and premiered separately in two concerts in 2008. On the Death of General Brock (my original title) was written to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and premiered by a small male ensemble at the October 2012 Brock University Soiree, a fundraising event. The publication dates of the musical scores, by the way, do not reflect the date of composition.

*Peaceful Niagara is the name of the composition of Prof. Harris, using the poem Niagara in 1882 by John Macdonald.


Two songs composed by Harris Loewen

Harris Loewen

I just discovered that two
Niagara poems that are on the NFPP site have been set to music by Harris Loewen, a retired Brock University professor. For a delightful treat I’ve embedded the recordings to At Niagara Falls by Anson G. Chester and Niagara in 1882 by John Macdonald. The Macdonald poem was named Peaceful Niagara for Loewen’s choral version.


Niagara in 1882 by John Macdonald

Queen’s Royal Hotel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, where Macdonald wrote this poem
undated postcard.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Suggested by a day of great quiet and beauty.

PEACEFUL is old Ontario,
‡‡Calm does Niagara flow,
Where hostile ships were sailing
‡‡Seventy years ago.

Peaceful the banks of the river
‡‡To-day compared with then,
Now clothed with the coming harvest,
‡‡Then bristling with armed men.

Silent is old Mississagua,
‡‡Niagara’s work is done,
No sound comes from its cannon
‡‡But the peaceful sunset gun.

And silent, too, are the heroes
‡‡Who sleep on either shore,
Who nobly fought for country
‡‡Here in the days of yore.

Here men still read the stories
‡‡Which the mural tablets tell.
Of brave ones who, for England,
‡‡By old Niagara fell.

But the strife is long forgotten,
‡‡And the battles long are o’er;
God grant that these great nations
‡‡May go to war no more.

God grant that these great nations
‡‡In peace may live alway,
As calm and as unruffled
‡‡As river and lake this day.

Macdonald wrote this poem at the Queen’s Royal Hotel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, June 24th, 1882

Source:  The Canadian Methodist Magazine, vol XVI, June to January, 1883

Many thanks to Arden Phair for referring this poem to the NFPP

Composer and conductor Harris Loewen set this poem to music in 2019,  as Peaceful Niagara, published by Cypress Choral Music. Listen to the composition on Soundcloud. Many thanks to Prof. Loewen for permission to post this here.



At Niagara Falls by Anson G. Chester


Robin on a Porch Railing.
Photo by Kyle Johnston on Unsplash

In the Maytime, at Niagara,
As a Sabbath morning broke,
Full of glory, peace and beauty,
From his dreams the sleeper woke.

All was quiet, save the thunder
That forever there prevails —
That, throughout the gathering ages,
Never pauses, never fails.

But the thunder of the torrent
Of a sudden died away,
Just as if a spell of silence
On the rampant waters lay.

For a robin, at the casement,
Trilled its carols sweet and strong,
And he heard the roar no longer —
It was vanquished by the song!

On thine ear the roar and tumult
Of the noisy world must fall,
But a little song of love and trust
Will overcome it all.

Source: Kevin McCabe, ed. The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines, Ont. : Blarney Stone Books, 1999.

 Originally published in Poets and Poetry of Buffalo. 1904.

Composer and conductor Harris Loewen set this poem to music in 2018, published by Cypress Choral Music. Listen to the composition on Soundcloud. Many thanks to Prof. Loewen for permission to post this here.



chester chester