Friday, June 3, 2011

Charles H. Steggall

British composer Charles Steggall (June 3, 1826 - June 7, 1905) was born in London, where he was to remain the rest of his life. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music under William Sterndale Bennett, and later became the chief professor of the organ there from 1851 to 1903. It's claimed that he taught more organists than anyone else in England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

His own career as an organist spanned several London churches, particularly
Lincoln's Inn Chapel, where he served from 1864 until his death. He began writing hymn tunes and worked as musical editor on two early collections: Church Psalmody (1849) and Hymns for the Church of England (1865).

In 1889, after the death of
William H. Monk, Steggall succeeded him as musical editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Unfortunately, the next published edition, in 1904, was not popular, considered to be too severe in its changes.

Unlike many of his Victorian age counterparts in church music, who wrote at least one or two tunes that we still sing today, Steggall's tunes (a few of which you can hear at the Cyber Hymnal site) have not survived well. I liked this one, which was written fairly late in his career and apparently was first published in this country in the Presbyterian Hymnal of 1933 matched with O holy city, seen of John.

Beyond, beyond the boundless sea,
Above the dome of sky.
Farther than thought itself can flee
Thy dwelling is on high;
Yet dear the blissful thought to me
That thou, my God, art nigh!

We hear thy voice when thunders roll,
Through the wide fields of air;
The waves obey thy firm control,
Yet still thou art not there;
Where shall I find thee present, God.
Who yet is everywhere?

O, not in circling depth or height,
But in the conscious breast,
Present to faith, yet veiled to sight,
There doth thy Spirit rest;
O come, thou Presence infinite,
And make thy people blest!

Josiah Conder, 1824; alt.
Charles H. Steggall, 1890

One Year Ago: Brian Wren

No comments: