This Sunday the Parish Choir will be singing Sir John Goss’s (1800-1880) setting If we believe that Jesus died and rose again as the Offertory Anthem. Written for the funeral of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on 18 November, the piece was sung by the choirs of St Paul’s, where Goss was organist between 1838 and 1880, and Norwich Cathedral. The preparation of St Paul’s Cathedral took six weeks as tiered seating had to be erected to accommodate the 13,000 mourners. On the day itself, one million mourners lined the route of the funeral cortège and in its midst was the Iron Duke’s twelve-ton, six wheeled funeral car where the body of the Iron Duke was to be laid to rest in the cathedral Crypt, side by side with Nelson. The inclusion of the choir of Norwich Cathedral in the funeral service was no accident. Dr Zechariah Buck (1798-1879), organist and master of the choristers of Norwich Cathedral between 1817 and 1878, was very well-respected for his skill as a trainer of boys’ voices and his choir was renowned throughout England for its excellence; indeed, his most famous protégé was Arthur Henry Mann (1850-1929), who is best known for being organist and director of music at King’s College, Cambridge (1876-1929) where he was the founder-director of the now world-famous service of Nine Lessons and Carols, which had its first performance in 1918.
Prior to his work at St Paul’s, Sir John Goss had been organist at St Luke’s Parish Church in Chelsea, which maintained a men and boys’ choir that sang Choral Evensong daily in the English cathedral tradition. From 1827-1874 he taught harmony at London’s Royal Academy of Music where his pupils were (Sir) Arthur Sullivan, Frederic Cowen, and Frank Bridge, along with (Sir) John Stainer. As a composer, Goss is probably best known nowadays for his hymns tunes to ‘Praise my soul, the King of heaven’ (LAUDA ANIMA) and ‘See, amid the winter’s snow’ (HUMILITY).
The Communion motet is Sir Edward Elgar’s setting of St Thomas Aquinas’s hymn, O Salutaris hostia. Born in 1857, in the Worcestershire village of Broadheath, Elgar benefitted from the opportunities afforded him by his father’s music shop in Worcester. As a composer, he was largely self-taught and his struggle to establish himself as a composer of international standing was hard-won from the outset; however, by the end of his life, he was arguably Britain’s most celebrated composer, having written works such as: Sea Pictures, The Dream of Gerontius, The Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, and the Cello Concerto among other gems. Today’s Communion anthem echoes Elgar’s Roman Catholic roots.
This Sunday’s hymns will be:
389 Rise, crowned with light WOODLANDS
344 O love how deep, how broad how high EISENACH
203 My God, thy table now is spread WAREHAM
366 All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine ENGLEBERG
The tune EISENACH may be less familiar to some members of St. Thomas’. A recording of the tune sung by the choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, may be found here: