John Goss was almost certainly named for St. John, on whose feast day the little Goss was born in 1800. His father, Joseph, was a church organist and the son eventually followed in this line.
Young John became a chorister at the Chapel Royal in 1811, and later studied music with composer and organist Thomas Attwood. He succeeded Attwood as the organist at St. Paul's Cathedral in 1838 and remained in that position for more than thirty years. He was also a Professor of Harmony at the Royal Academy of Music (a young Arthur Sullivan was one of his students), and was eventually knighted by Queen Victoria in 1872.
During these years he composed mostly church music (anthems, chants, and hymn tunes), though he also produced incidental music for a play, The Sergeant's Wife (sometimes described as an opera, but probably not), and some orchestral music.
His most familiar hymn tune is LAUDA ANIMA, generally sung with Praise, my soul, the King of heaven. My own favorite Goss tune was always ARMAGEDDON, though in recent years I've learned that he only provided the standard arrangement of this tune that was actually written by German composer C. Luise Reichardt. Previously on the blog we have heard Goss's BEVAN. Today we continue in the Christmas spirit with an almost-forgotten song that first appeared with a tune by Goss in Christmas Carols New and Old (1871), collected by John Stainer.
See, amid the winter's snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption's happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Lo, within a manger lies
One who built the starry skies;
One, who throned in height sublime
Sits amid the cherubim.
Say, ye holy shepherds, say
What your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?
"As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing peace on earth
Told us of the Savior's birth."
Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble thee,
In thy sweet humility!
Edward Caswall, 1858; alt.
Tune: HUMILITY (126.96.36.199. with refrain)
John Goss, 1871
I say "almost-forgotten" but it's probably someone's favorite somewhere. There are actually dozens, possibly hundreds, of really forgotten Christmas hymns, carols, and songs in the hymnals of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We like the standards.