Composer Reginald De Koven was born Henry Louis Reginald on April 3, 1859 in Middletown Connecticut. When Reginald was 11 the family moved to England where De Koven was educated, eventually graduation from St. John’s College, Oxford, England in 1879. After graduation, De Koven moved throughout Europe studying music with the best instructors of his day, including Lebert, Pruckner, Vannucini, von Suppe, Genee and Delibes.
In 1882, De Koven returned to the US and settled in Chicago, Illinois where he worked in a brokerage firm until his marriage to Anna Farwell. In 1883, De Koven started a dry-goods business that became very successful. With the steady income, he was able to return to music and in 1888, he composed his first opera, The Begum, written with librettist Harry B. Smith. The following year he again teamed with Smith to compose the opera Don Quixote.
From 1890 through 1920, De Koven introduced over 450 popular songs through his operas and operettas (the equivalent of a Broadway production in the 1950’s). De Koven’s operas include Robin Hood, The Knickerbockers, The Algerian, The Fencing Master, Rob Roy, The Highwayman,
Successful songs to come out of these operas include “Ho, Promise Me”, “Brown October Ale”, “Sweetheart, My Own Sweetheart”, “The Spinning Song”, “Little Boy Blue”, “My Home Is Where the Heather Blooms”, “Come, Lads of the Highlands”, “Dearest Heart of My Heart”, “Do You Remember Love?”, “Moonlight song”, “Gypsy Song” and “Hammock Love Song.”
De Koven was also the composer of serious works including Canterbury Pilgrims, 2 piano sonatas and Rip Van Winkle.
Throughout the years, De Koven was also a renowned music critic for several periodicals including Chicago’s Evening Post (1889-1895), Harper’s Weekly (1895-1897) and New York’s World (1898-1900, 1907-1912). In 1902, he organized and conducted the Washington DC Symphony, a position he held until 1904.
Reginald De Koven died in Chicago, Illinois on January 16, 1920.