ALFRED CELLIER (1844 - 1891)
Born in London of French parents, Alfred Cellier attended the Chapel Royal as a chorister, singing alongside Arthur Sullivan two years his senior. Like Sullivan he first became a church organist, and went over to Ireland to become director of Ulster Hall concerts in Belfast. He was drawn to the theatre and became musical director at the Royal Court Theatre, London (1871) and then at the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester (1872–76). At the Prince’s he wrote his early operettas, The Sultan of Mocha, The Tower of London and Nell Gwynne between 1874 and 1876. Of these only The Sultan brought worthwhile recognition, being later played in London, New York and Sydney.
Cellier went on to write symphonic pieces for orchestra and numerous ‘parlour ballads’ for the piano. His first association with Dorothy’s librettist Benjamin C. Stephenson was when they teamed up for a short musical piece, Charity begins at Home (1872). While working as musical director for Richard D’Oyly Carte at the Savoy, Cellier composed many of the curtain-raisers that accompanied the early Savoy operas. His final work in 1891, The Mountebanks to a book by W.S. Gilbert, was composed when he had become seriously ill with tuberculosis; this he had contracted earlier in life. He died during rehearsal before the composition was finished and the work had to be completed by Ivan Caryll.