Henry Rowley Bishop (1786–1855), composer, conductor and the first musician to be honoured with a knighthood (1842), wrote this imperishable air in 1821. The title of the song was then ‘To the Home of My Childhood’ with words by Thomas Bayly, and it was composed as ‘a Sicilian air’ in order to complete a collection entitled Melodies of Various Nations
. Bishop subsequently used the tune—and used it frequently—in his opera Clari or The Maid of Milan
(1823), with its now familiar lyric by the American actor and playwright (latterly a diplomat) John Howard Payne (1791–1852). Gottschalk appears to have first played an arrangement of ‘Home, Sweet Home’ in Boston as early as 1853, though doubtless it differed from this final version published eleven years later. It is dedicated to ‘Madame Mary Eugénie Martin (née Curlett) of Baltimore’, one of whose daughters was, at the time, rumoured to be infatuated with Gottschalk. The right hand of the final variation is marked celeste. Gottschalk was still playing the work six months before his death. The Daily Alta California
of 1 June 1865 reported that while playing it to an all-male audience of tough-looking miners, many broke down in sobs because the piece caused their minds ‘to wander back to the spot of their birth’.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2005