Mayhew L. Lake February 24 2014, 0 Comments

Contributed by Jack Kopstein

There is probably no music library worldwide  that does not have an arrangement by Mayhew L. Lake, either in the band or orchestral field. His output was beyond the imagination. The musicians of the great civilian bands and professional military bands were certainly acquainted with his work and John Philip Sousa said he was the most talented arranger in American history. Sousa told neophytes  and other arrangers, “now if you contact Mister Lake, he may put your composition in proper form with correct harmonization’s and instrumentation."

Mayhew Lake, born on October 25, 1879 in Southville, Massachusetts, was an American conductor and orchestrator. After completing his music education at the New England Conservatory of Music, Lake’s exceptional musical career began with performing as a violinist in the Boston Symphony at the age of sixteen. At 21 he became the conductor of the Payret Theater in Havana, Cuba, the Western Hemisphere’s largest theater company at that time. He conducted many famous theatrical performances before moving to New York in 1910. There he made arrangements for some of American popular music's greatest performers and songwriters including Victor Herbert, George M. Cohan, Percy Grainger, Edwin Franko Goldman and John Philip Sousa. He also wrote a few ragtime tunes, including The Rag Baby (1916) and A Ragtime Travesty on Carmen (1918).


Beginning in 1913, Lake was the editor-in-chief of the band and orchestra department of music publisher Carl Fischer. The manuscripts in this collection were used by Lake's concert band, the Symphony in Gold, which he conducted for NBC radio. Lake's autobiography, "Great Guys: Laughs and Gripes of Fifty Years of Show-Music Business" was published in 1983. His music is featured on Heritage of the March, Volume 79 of the Robert Hoe Collection. Lake published pieces under several pseudonyms including Lester Brockton, Paul DuLac, Charles Edwards, William Lester, Robert Hall, and Alfrey Byers. John Sousa’s comments regarding Lake were right absolutely accurate as to the arranger’s skills. The generations that followed Lake learned from his work that not one of his arrangements bore anything but exact harmonizations and proper instrumentation, further while he was at Carl  Fischer in New York the music publications were a model for the entire industry.

Altissimo! Recordings is proud to present the story of Mayhew L. Lake, one of America’s greatest musical arrangers. The recordings of the numerous service bands have a multitude of his work. You can listen to some examples from the Altissimo! catalog below. The musicians of America owe him a great debt of gratitude. Mayhew Lake is discussed in Paul Bierley’s Book “The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa”.

- Jack Kopstein