Henry Russell

Though born in England, Henry Russell immigrated to Canada (in 1834 or 1835) and then almost immediately moved to Rochester, New York. Russell gained tremendous popularity as a composer/performer, touring the United States and claiming to have written over 800 songs (realistically about 250).

Image: Henry Russell, 1838, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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Henry Russell began his musical career as a child singer in England. At the age of three, he sang in Robert Elliston’s children’s opera group. He began studying composition as a teenager with Bellini and Rossini in Italy, and studying with the Italian Bel Canto composers likely lead to a strong development of his melodic gifts.

After moving to Canada and then the United States, Russell published his first song, “Wind of the Winter Night,” in 1836. He made his debut as a singer in New York shortly after this publication, and from 1837-1841, Russell achieved great popularity touring the United States as a pianist/singer, performing his own songs. Russell engaged in another American tour in 1843, and Stephen Foster heard him sing in Pittsburgh. Russell returned to England permanently in 1845, but he had a lasting effect on American song and popular music.

–Christie Finn

Related Information



Warren M. Swenson: Battle Pieces

(Will Marion Cook, May Swenson, George Frederick Root, Stephen Foster and Henry Russell)


The Civil War

(Henry T. Burleigh, Daniel Decatur Emmett, Stephen Foster, John Hill Hewitt, Abraham Lincoln, George Frederick Root, Henry Russell, Joseph Philbrick Webster and Henry Clay Work)


Where Home Is

(Stephen Foster, George Frederick Root and Henry Russell)


Sheet Music

A Life in the West

Composer(s): Henry Russell

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