It is often surprising the things you can learn when you study the history of a person. Such is the case of Alexander Reinagle. At first sight, he was just another composer. On the second glance, after reading about him, he became a person; a fellow human being who accomplished things and had close friends. He actually has some close connections to our country since he stayed here for a while and was friends with one of our Presidents. It is in the songs he wrote and the people he interacted with that we discover who the real man was.
Alexander Robert Reinagle was born on April 23, 1756, to Joseph Reinagle and Annie Laurie in Portsmouth, England. His father was a Hungarian musician and Reinagle first learned music by him. He also had some musical training from Raynor Taylor, the music director of Edinburgh’s Theatre Royal. As a young man, he worked in shipping and made several trips to America. He later taught music in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a composer, conductor, pianist, violinist and theatrical manager. When he first began composing, he quickly became well known in America.
In 1786, Reinagle moved to New York and later to Philadelphia. He was friends with President George Washington and taught the President’s step-granddaughter, Nellie Curtis, music. Reinagle even wrote a song commemorating the President’s death. Along with Thomas Wignell, he wrote many ballets and operas for the theatres in America. He also wrote Variations on Famous Scots Tunes, several sonatas and other marches in honor of different people. Because of his theatrical company, two different theatres were built. He died in Baltimore in 1809.
It’s strange to think that someone who used to be so popular in our country has been pretty much forgotten. Many of his works were destroyed in a fire, but we still have some of them including the hymns that he composed music for. We can be thankful for what we do have left and use them to further our knowledge of history and of God.