James Sidney Jones (17 June 1861 - 29 January 1946), usually credited as Sidney Jones, was an English composer, born in Islington, most famous for producing the scores for a series of musical comedy hits in the late Victorian period.
Life and career
Jones' father was Musical Director of the Grand Theatre in Leeds and he gained his first professional experience playing clarionet in his father's band.
In 1886, actress/producer Kate Santley hired Jones as musical director for the tour of her musical Vetah. He then worked for Henry Leslie for nearly four years as conductor of tours of Alfred Cellier's comic opera hit Dorothy (starring Lucy Carr-Shaw, sister to George Bernard), Doris, and The Red Hussar. He was then music director for a tour of the Gaiety Theatre piece Little Jack Sheppard under the management of comedian J. J. Dallas. Back in London, he conducted In Town and Morocco Bound, and became one of the West End's best known conductors. After that, George Edwardes hired him as musical director for the Gaiety Theatre's 1891 tour of America and Australia, conducting the burlesque Ruy Blas and Blasé Roué.
First composing successes
At the same time, he also began to establish himself as a composer. He composed original music for the pantomime Aladdin II at Leeds (1889). When Edwardes's touring company produced Cinder-Ellen Up-too-Late in Australia, Jones contributed a dance number to Meyer Lutz's score. Jones also composed an operetta, Our Family Legend, written with Reginald Stockton, and he supplied individual numbers for various musicals, including "Linger Longer, Loo", which became a hit at Edwardes's Gaiety Theatre in the burlesque Don Yuan (1893).
When journalist Jimmy Davis, writing under the pseudonym Owen Hall, produced a script for A Gaiety Girl (1893). Edwardes gave Jones the opportunity to write the music, and the result was a show that set the trend for a new era of popular musical theatre. Jones's style owed much to the music of Arthur Sullivan and Cellier, which he had conducted for so long, but it was lighter and breezier, appealing to popular tastes of the time.
Gaiety Theatre years
While continuing to provide songs for others' musicals, Jones eventually became house composer and music director for George Edwardes's new Daly's Theatre. After A Gaiety Girl, Jones again combined with Hall and lyricist Harry Greenbank to produce another success, An Artist's Model, and this, in turn, was followed by the three most successful musical comedies of the era: The Geisha, A Greek Slave and San Toy.
Other musicals followed, but Jones' next real success was not until King of Cadonia in 1908 and later back at the light-hearted Gaiety Theatre, with The Girl from Utah in 1913 and The Happy Day in 1916. Although these lasts two shows were modest successes, Jones, like his sometime collaborator Lionel Monckton, fell victim to changing musical fashions around the time of World War I and retired from composition.
Selected works and collaborations