Sunday, October 26, 2008

Henry Smart

Composer Henry Thomas Smart (October 26, 1813 - July 6, 1879) was primarily employed as an organist at several churches in London, though he had originally studied law and practiced it for a few years. He also designed pipe organs for two concert halls in Leeds and Glasgow, and was a music critic for The Atlas, a weekly journal.

His compositions included many anthems (two can be seen at the Choral Public Domain Library) and other church music (I believe my choir will be singing one of his settings of the evening canticles at a festival in February). There was also an opera (Bertha), an oratorio (Jacob) and a cantata (The Bride of Dunkerron). All were acclaimed in their day but are no longer known. He also wrote many hymn tunes and was editorially involved in a number of hymnals.

Two of his tunes are still very well known today. LANCASHIRE, named for the location of the first church he served as organist, has been used for many different hymn texts, including one here. The other, REGENT SQUARE, is perhaps most often used with Angels from the realms of glory, but since I am not at all ready for Christmas hymns, we shall have this text instead, usually used as a closing hymn.

Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing;
Fill our hearts with joy and peace;
Let us each thy love possessing,
Triumph in redeeming grace.
O refresh us, O refresh us,
Traveling through this wilderness.

Thanks we give and adoration
For thy Gospel’s joyful sound;
May the fruits of thy salvation
In our hearts and lives abound.
Ever faithful, ever faithful,
To the truth may we be found.

So, whene'er the signal's given
Us from earth to call away,
Borne on angel's wings to heaven,
Glad thy summons to obey,
May we ever, may we ever
Reign with thee in endless day

John Fawcett, 1773; alt.
Henry T. Smart, 1867

Regent Square was the location of a prominent Presbyterian church in London, where the editor of Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship (where Smart's tune was first published in 1867) was the pastor.

Smart's eyesight had been weak since his young adulthood, and eventually he became blind. One of his daughters then transcribed his works for him as he composed them. The Cyber Hymnal site lists more of his tunes, though by no means all. If you want to read more about his tunes, another blogwriter has a rundown at this site.

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