Francis Ptacek, a member of the Prague Conservatoire, came to Leicester, on the invitation of
Major Neal, whose wife was Czech, to take over the militia band in 1854. As well as his band
and teaching commitments Ptacek also promoted concerts of popular music in the New Hall.
He was also a composer and wrote such pieces as the overture Glengarrif and
Sounds from Charnwood, a waltz that included the song ‘Old John of Bradgate Park’,
which he dedicated to Mrs Thomas T. Paget. He also found time
to be organist of St George's church.
In December 1867 the people of Leicester showed their esteem of Ptacek by giving
benefit concert in the Temperance Hall. During the evening he was presented with a purse, made
by Mrs Neal, containing 150 guineas ‘as an acknowledgement of twelve years’ work in cultivating
the musical taste of the town’. The 200 performers included
his band and the New Orpheus Society, of which he was conductor.
Francis Ptacek was also the Music critic of The Bee, a local weekly sports and
magazine. It was in this publication that, in 1882, Ptacek stated that he thought
Leicester should be
able to support a band of about thirty to play every day in the newly-opened
Abbey Park. The expenses of such a band, he contended, could be met by the sale of programmes
and a subscription list. The band, Ptacek believed, could be run on the same lines as the
Militia band with the Mayor being considered the Colonel and the Aldermen and Councillors
the majors and captains. An idea which,
needless to say, never caught on.
The news of Ptacek's death was received with great sadness in Leicester, especially
as it was so unexpected. He had gone to Kent to spend Christmas with his friend Herr Sawerthal,
Bandmaster of the Royal Engineers and, as he was preparing to
come home, he suffered a fatal