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Tours, Berthold (b Rotterdam, 17 Dec 1838; d Hammersmith, London, 11 March 1897). English composer, organist and violinist of Dutch birth. He received his early musical training from his father, Barthélemy Tours (1797–1864), organist of St Laurens, Rotterdam, and from the Dutch composer and conductor Johannes Verhulst. He later studied at the conservatory in Brussels and, from 1857, at the conservatory in Leipzig. He lived in Russia from January 1859 to April 1861 in the service of ‘the music-loving prince’ Yury Golitsïn, who enjoyed conducting choirs of Russian peasants. Later in 1861 Tours emigrated to London, where he remained until his death (although retaining his Dutch citzenship). In London, he composed and taught, and played the violin, at first in the orchestra of the Adelphi Theatre, then (in 1862), through the influence of the violinist and conductor Prosper Sainton, at the Royal Italian Opera. He held the post of organist at St Helen, Bishopsgate, 1864–5, at St Peter, Stepney from 1865 to 1867 and at the Swiss Church, Holborn from 1867 to 1879, where he founded a choir in 1873. In 1872 he became an assistant musical adviser and editor at Novello, Ewer & Co., and in 1877 was appointed Novello’s chief musical editor. At Novello, he arranged and edited vocal scores and piano accompaniments for many operas, oratorios and masses, including Beethoven’s Mass in C, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Gounod’s La redemption and several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He also composed a widely popular primer for the violin and one for the viola, as part of Novello’s instrumental primer series.
A prolific composer, he wrote for the piano, the organ and other instruments, and composed a large number of songs, some of which, including Forget-me-not (1868) and L’alouette (1869), achieved great popularity. However, his services, anthems and hymn tunes for the Anglican church, including the Easter anthem God hath appointed a day (1878) and the Service in F (1887), are among his best work.
His son Frank Edward Tours (b Hammersmith, 1 Sept 1877; d Los Angeles, 2 Feb 1963) worked in England for some years conducting musical comedies for George Edwardes; he collaborated with Paul Rubens on The Dairymaids (1906) and was sole composer of The Dashing Little Duke (1909). He developed a reputation as a composer of ballads, beginning with a setting of Kipling’s Mother o’ Mine (1903). He later emigrated to the USA, where he worked for Ziegfeld and George M. Cohan on Broadway and in later life became an orchestral consultant to Hollywood film companies.
DNB (F.G. Edwards)
Obituary, MT, xxxviii (1897), 238–9
J. Henderson: A Directory of Composers for Organ (Swindon, 1996)