Sherlock Book Review - Sherlock Holmes In Song

Posted by Steve Emecz on

Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Jim Ballinger attended meetings of the Society when he was lecturing at King’s College, London, and he occasionally entertained us with his canonical ditties. He’s now back in his native Canada, but this handsome large-format book is a good reminder of his talent to amuse — and an invitation to perform the songs for ourselves. Here’s a musical synopsis of each of the sixty stories, plus one song, “Lasting Impressions”, that sums up the eternal attraction of Holmes and Watson. As the blurb says: “The music encompasses a variety of styles from generic trad rock or folk rock to Victorian music hall, Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs, sea shanty (‘Black Peter’), rhumba (‘The Dancing Men’, ‘The Sussex Vampire’), bouzouki (‘The Greek Interpreter’), country and western (‘The Three Garridebs’), military band (‘The Naval Treaty’), rugby song (‘The Missing Three-Quarter’), and drinking song (‘The Six Napoleons’). There's even some tasteful yodelling at the Reichenbach Falls in ‘The Final Problem’, and ‘The Creeping Man’ strays dangerously close to punk rock. Other influences include Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Tom Lehrer and Gordon Lightfoot.” You can check that on Jim’s YouTube channel, where you can hear and see him performing.

Jim's YouTube Channel


David Marcum (Editor, author)

I've been playing piano since I started at age 8 in 1973. (Good Lord, nearly 50 years.) I was a piano performance major for my first two years of college, until I decided to retain my amateur status and changed it to a minor in music. I've continued to play to the present – I pretty much can't pass through our living room without stopping and playing something . . .

. . . which is why it's such a treat and pleasure to receive "Sherlock Holmes in Song" by Jim Ballinger, and edited by Mark Alberstat. These aren't just rinky-dink little songs, and this massive high-quality book, with a composition for every story in The Canon, will keep me busy for a long time.

I grew up hired to piano in a number of churches of various denominations, with exposure to various hymnals, and any church would be proud at how professional-looking this book is. It should certainly be the Official Hymnal for The Church of the Canonical Sherlock Holmes.

Mr. Ballinger composed these songs over several decades, and upon reaching the goal of one for every Canonical story, it would be understandable if he chose to rest from his labors. But I’ll bet that he won’t be able to. At some point another song will suggest itself, and then another. By the time I’ve learned all of these songs, maybe he’ll be ready with Volume II . . . .



Sherlock Holmes in Song is available on this site with a share going to our good causes: Also available from:

Amazon USA     Book Depository 

Have you ever arrived at a Sherlockian meeting having not read the story of the day?  What you need is a 3-minute synopsis.  In verse.  With music.  That very solution is in your hands.

Jim Ballinger began writing folk songs about each of the Sherlock Holmes stories in 1981 and performing them at meetings of the Bootmakers of Toronto with accompaniment on his guitar.  After a hiatus or two, the project was completed with the sixtieth song in 2017.  The lyrics and notation of the original music are included in this volume, edited by Mark Alberstat.

The music encompasses a variety of styles from generic trad rock or folk rock to Victorian music hall, Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs, sea shanty (Black Peter), rhumba (The Dancing Men, The Sussex Vampire), bouzouki (The Greek Interpreter), country and western (The Three Garridebs), military band (The Naval Treaty), rugby song (The Missing Three-Quarter), and drinking song (The Six Napoleons).  There’s even some tasteful yodeling at the Reichenbach Falls in The Final Problem, and The Creeping Man strays dangerously close to punk rock.  Other influences include Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Tom Lehrer and Gordon Lightfoot.

Videos of the songs are posted on the YouTube channel Sherlock Songs.

Jim Ballinger, MBt, is a retired radiopharmaceutical scientist and amateur musician who has lived in Canada and Britain.  Indeed, for 14 years he lived 10 km south of 221B Baker Street.  He is a member of the Bootmakers of Toronto, Spence Munros of Halifax, and Sherlock Holmes Society of London. 

Mark Alberstat, MBt, is a Sherlockian/Doylean writer with a special interest in sport and is co-editor of Canadian Holmes, the quarterly journal of the Bootmakers of Toronto.  He is the founder of the Spence Munros of Halifax and a member of the Bootmakers of Toronto, Baker Street Irregulars and a few other Sherlockian societies.

ISBN 9781787059436

Format  Paperback

Pages  274

Also available as Hardcover


Many have asked if it's possible to listen to what the songs sound like - well, author Jim Ballinger has helpfully recorded the songs and loaded them up on the YouTube channel - Sherlock Songs. Here for example is number 26 - The Dancing Men.



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