Monday, May 5, 2008

T. Tertius Noble

Thomas Tertius Noble, composer, organist, and choirmaster, born on May 5, 1867, began his long career in England, where he was organist at Ely Cathedral and York Minster. He founded the York Symphony Orchestra in 1898. When he was offered the choirmaster job at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan, it made the New York Times. He established a choir of men and boys at the church, then in 1918 founded the St. Thomas Choir School for boys, the first US choir school established in the Anglican tradition.

Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around us waves the golden grain?
And to each person does the Maker say,
“Go work today.”

Come, labor on!
Claim the high calling angels cannot share—
To young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on!

Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
By feeblest agents may our God fulfill
One righteous will.

Come, labor on!
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”

Jane Laurie Borthwick, 1859; alt.
T. Tertius Noble, 1918

This is Noble's best-known hymn tune, his only composition still in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982. He had at least six tunes in the 1916 edition and four in the 1940, as well as a number of harmonizations (he served on the Committees for both those earlier hymnals). Some of those other tunes include EASTWICK, MAUBURN, and NEW YORK (newer tunes ROCKPORT and NEW ENGLAND are still under copyright). Overall, his hymn tunes have gone out of fashion, (though I like EASTWICK) much like his instrumental and chamber music, and even his anthems, which were well known to earlier generations. Some of his service music still survives: his Evening Services in B minor and A minor, and his Anglican chant settings (we did one on Sunday, though it had no relation to his birthday).

Noble spent thirty years at St. Thomas before retiring at the age of 75. I don't know if they sang Come, labor on at his final service, but it surely would have been appropriate. In retirement, (spent in Rockport, MA), he was known as the dean emeritus of American organists.


Anonymous said...

Tertius Noble signed my mother's certificate designating her an associate in the American Guild of Organists. The fact that Tertius Noble had heard her play and pronounced her worthy of the AAGO designation was a mark of considerable pride for Mom.

Thank you for this informative piece!

C.W.S. said...

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you also saw the entry for Noble's birthday in 2009. I will be looking for something else by him to highlight this year.