Music Notes for Whitsunday


  • Thomas Tertius Noble Grieve not the Holy Spirit
  • Thomas Attwood Come, Holy Ghost our souls inspire

noble-t-tertius-1867-1953The English composer, Thomas Tertius Noble’s (1867-1953) setting of Grieve not the Holy Spirit is by far his most successful composition. This beautiful, Elgarian work for soprano solo and full choir is a setting of the words of Ephesians 4:30 and it is appropriate for today’s Whitsunday (Pentecost) festivities. Noble was brought up in Colchester where he served as organist at All Saints’ Church from the age of 13. He went on to study composition and organ at the Royal College of Music under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) and Sir Walter Parratt (1841-1924). He was subsequently Stanford’s assistant at Trinity College, Cambridge where he formed an association with Hugh Benson (1871-1914), whose father, Edward White Benson (1829-1896), had, as bishop of Truro, pioneered the service of nine lessons and carols. E.W. Benson later went on to become archbishop of Canterbury. Having been passed over to succeed Stanford⎯Alan Gray (1855-1935) was appointed instead⎯Noble went on to become Organist and Master of the Choristers at Ely Cathedral. From Ely he was appointed Organist and Master of the Music at York Minster, where he directed the Minster choir in the twice-daily choral services of Matins and Evensong. He founded the York Symphony orchestra and had conducted at London’s Crystal Palace. His star was seen to be so much in the ascendancy that it was thought that an appointment at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral in London would surely follow; indeed, had he not immigrated to the USA, it is likely that he would have been a successful orchestral conductor on the London circuit; however, on the advice of Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864-1945), Archbishop of York (1909-1928), Noble accepted the offer of the Rector of St. Thomas’ Fifth Avenue in New York City, the Rev’d Ernest Stires (1866-1951), to become Organist and Director of Music at the newly rebuilt New York church. It is perhaps in this last role that he is best known in Episcopal circles. One proviso of Noble’s acceptance of the post in 1913 included the establishment of a choir school along English cathedral lines. It is now the only school of its kind in the USA.

Attwood-ThomasThomas Attwood’s (1765-1838) setting of the words Come, Holy Ghost our souls inspire is a simple A-B setting much along the same lines as Mozart’s Ave verum corpus. Attwood had been a chorister at the Chapel Royal in London under James Nares 1715-1783) and Edmund Ayrton (1734-1808). In 1783, the Prince of Wales, later George IV, was sufficiently impressed with Attwood’s skills as a harpsichordist that he sent him at his own expense to the Continent for further training. After two years in Naples, Attwood went to Vienna where he became a favourite pupil of Mozart (1756-1791). Upon returning to London in 1787 he held for a brief time an appointment as one of the chamber musicians in the service of the Prince of Wales. In 1796, he was selected as organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral and, in the same year, was appointed as composer to His Majesty’s Chapel Royal. He was one of the founding members of the London’s (Royal) Philharmonic Society and the Royal Academy of Music. His anthem I was glad was written for the Coronation of George IV and his anthem O Lord, grant the King a long life was performed at the Coronation of William IV. He was composing a similar anthem for Queen Victoria when he died at his house in Cheyne Walk. He is buried in the crypt of St.Paul’s Cathedral under the organ.


  • 376 Come down, O Love divine DOWN AMPNEY
  • 288 O worship the King HANOVER
  • Faithful Shepherd, feed me PASTOR PASTORUM
  • 107 Hail thee, festival day SALVA FESTA DIES

This Sunday we shall be singing a new hymn, ‘Faithful Shepherd, feed me’ to the beautiful tune PASTOR PASTORUM by Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860). The words, by Thomas Benson Pollock (1836-1896), are appropriate for Communion. A version sung by Wakefield Cathedral Choir may be found here:

Dr Giles Brightwell