Francis Harold Fleming - Bothwell, Ontario's Forgotten Baritone

Francis Harold Fleming - Bothwell's Forgotten Baritone - Free Sheet Music

This is the second in a series of locally obscure and old sheet music. The first piece was written for Laura Hespeler, Jacob Hespeler’s daughter in 1864. 

Lately I have been going through old sheet music again that has some connection locally. I make the sheet music a free download and thus bring musical history alive again.

Francois Harold Fleming was born in Bothwell, Ontario, in 1882. He was the first to perform the Carl Majer composition Oh, Do Not Ask! Oh, Do Nor Weep! The music is copyrighted 1885. 

It is thought that Francois Harold Fleming began performing the piece in the early 1900s.

The front cover of the sheet music states, “Introduced by America’s Armless Baritone”. The photo of Mr. Fleming on the cover confirms this statement.

The next mention in the media of Mr. Fleming is of a performance in Windsor, Ontario at the Windsor Theatre on April 16th, 1916. According to the Windsor Star, "The Campbells Are Coming, one of the most expensive and thrilling photoplays ever produced up to date and a photoplay which deals with the well known Victorian epic of the Relief of Lucknow and the Massacre at Cawnpore during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was the feature attraction on Monday and Tuesday.

Francois Fleming - baritone

 In producing this historic photodrama the directors, Francis Ford and Grace Cunard. who are also the leading characters, have incorporated every known conceivable sort of thrill and realism. Sensational harem scenes and Oriental (dancing as done by native Indian girls are shown. Seven thousand soldiers, part of them from Canadian regiments now at the front, ; took part in the picture. The Scotch Highlanders' band of Vancouver, BC. leads the soldiers to battle. Special music arranged for the picture will be furnished by the orchestra and by Highland pipers purposely engaged for the occasion, as well as song selections by Francis Harold Flemming, America's armless baritone."

We do know the Oh, Do Not Ask! Oh, Do Not Weep! Sheet music was produced by Whaley, Royce & Co. Limited, Yonge Street Toronto. According to the Canadian encyclopaedia , The firm was founded in February 1888 by Eri [sic] Whaley (b Stewarttown, west of Toronto, 6 Feb 1853, d 27 January 1920) and George C. (Cooper) Royce (b Toronto ca 1865, d there 10 Apr 1942). They were instrument dealers and manufacturers and, until 1969, music dealers and publishers.

We also know that Francis Harold Fleming was on tour in early 1918 introducing new songs for Whaley, Royce and Company.

Tragically on April 29th, 1918, Francois Harold Fleming died in bed at the Hotel Metropolis, Detroit Michigan, early in the morning. He evidently fell asleep while smoking a cigarette in bed and the room was a mass of flames by the time the firefighters arrived. Two other people perished in the blaze also.

The headlines mentions Francois was from Kitchener, ON.  Evidence on his death certificate and USA Department of Immigration and Naturalization Service documents only refer to Bothwell, ON. He could have lived,and even performed in Kitchener, we just have no evidence to support it other than that newspaper heading. 

What we are left with of his legacy is the sheet music of the song he performed.

Here is the LINK to download the sheet music of Oh, Do Not Ask! Oh, Do Not Weep!

If someone would like to record it and send me a version of it, I would love to include it in an update of this post.

Francis Harold Fleming baritone

Thanks to Neal Moogk-Soulis for his help in researching this article.


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