Helps most often avoided the subject of his early youth as a child prodigy. His friends and students don't yet have a complete image of how many compositions, poems, and concerts the brilliant little Bobby produced.
He did speak rather reservedly of his first publicly performed works, with an ironic blush he would mention two little pieces: Cherry was written (with help from mother) at the age of eight, and Helps formally considered this his first composition.
This effort was closely followed by the Dance of the Cinders on the Hearth. The piece contained an important (although supposedly unintentional) omission which would hurtle the young composer to instant fame — in the key of g minor, little Helps forgot to add the sharps effectively raising the ‘leading tones’ to their proper pitch in classical practice. The resulting modal flavor greatly pleased the judges of a children's music competition, hence the piece was selected to be orchestrated and performed by Leopold Stokowski for one of his “family concerts” in New York.
View the manuscript score of Dance of the Cinders on the Hearth scanned by
Digital Commons @ University of South Florida