Wednesday, June 27, 2012

John Pyke Hullah

John Pyke Hullah, born on this day in 1812, is primarily remembered as a music educator, bur he was also a composer and editor. His mother encouraged his musical education when he was young; she had studied with the composer John Danby (who, in turn, was a pupil of Samuel Webbe)..

Hullah entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1833.  One of his fellow students was Fanny Dickens, whose brother was not yet a famous novelist.  A few years later, Hullah would write the music for an operetta with a libretto by Charles Dickens, The Village Coquettes.  The work was not successful, and Dickens reportedly attempted to buy all the copies of the score to keep it from being presented again, but some of the songs by Hullah were published separately as sheet music.  He later wrote two more operatic works which were presented at Covent Garden, but most of his compositions were glees, a particular type of song popular in England, written for at least three voices.

Hullah believed that musical education, particularly in choral singing, fostered an important type of community.  Singing schools in England had grown especially popular in the nonconformist churches of the eighteenth century, and he encouraged this sort of education.  This became known as the choral revival, or the Psalmody Movement.  Hullah also wrote popular books on music theory, such as his Rudiments of Musical Grammar, which were used for many years.  He was one of the founders of Queen's College, the first English institution of higher education for women.

Some of these things suggest that he must have had some interest in congregational singing as well, and indeed he did write several hymn tunes.  He also edited two collections, A Hymnal, chiefly from The Book of Praise (1868) and Hymns for the Young (1872).  Today's tune by Hullah, BENTLEY, was perhaps his longest-lasting tune (one of only two of his available at the Cyber Hymnal) though it probably is not very well known today. The short text by James Edmeston has a musical theme which makes it appropriate for Hullah's birthday (though I am not the first to join this tune and text).

When shall the voice of singing
Flow joyfully along?
When hill and valley ringing
With one triumphant song,
Proclaim the contest ended,
And Christ, who once was slain,
Again to earth descended,
In righteousness to reign.

Then from the craggy mountains
The sacred shout shall fly,
And shady vales and fountains
Shall echo the reply;
High tower and lowly dwelling,
Shall send the echo round,
All hallelujahs swelling
In one eternal sound.

James Edmeston, 1822
John Pyke Hullah, 1867

In later years John Hullah was appointed a national musical inspector for training schools, a post which he held for a decade until two years before his death, in 1884.

Two Years Ago: Julia Anne Elliott

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