Carl Teike

When the young Carl Teike asked his new musical director for an opinion of his latest march composition, Old Comrades, he surely was not expecting the reply; "chuck it in the fire!"

No doubt the recommendation was later to haunt the unfortunate gentleman, but he could never have guessed that, one-day this same composition would return nine firsts and a second in a 10 country poll to find the world's favourite march!

Carl Teike was born in Northern Germany in 1864 in relatively poor circumstances. As a young lad he made himself known to the local military band, and their musical director took an immediate shine to him - a liaison that led to a five-year apprenticeship with the local orchestra. Carl was to learn woodwind, strings, percussion, and (his favourite) the French horn.

At the age of 16 he went to Ulm in Southern Germany as a travelling player. After three years he joined the military band there, and started private study with the ambition of qualifying as a conductor. It was soon obvious that he had a unique talent, and he composed his first march "On the Banks of the Danube" when he was 21, "Old Comrades" being one of many to follow.

On leaving the army at 25 years old and married, he moved back north, and over a 20 year period became nothing short of a legend. It was in Potsdam, while working as a police bodyguard, that he wrote his other immortal march "Steadfast and True". Teike was credited during his lifetime with being a world-renowned composer of concert marches, and perhaps the nicest compliment he ever received was a large photo from the New York Police Band. He returned the thanks by writing "The Blue Police".

In 1909, for reasons of ill health, he and his family moved to Landsberg, in modern-day Poland, yet there was no let-up in his musical output. His total count of marches may never be known because he often gifted or sold his works - suffice to say that Hoe’s compilation of 250 marches (The Heritage of the March) contained no fewer than 45 Teike compositions - including the title track!

Finally, an unnamed Teike march turned up in Berlin archives 44 years after his death, and his nephew was granted the task of finding a title. We are left pondering how long he took to come up with the suggestion, "New Comrades"!

Click for soundtrack of Old Comrades

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