Thursday, February 20, 2014

Emma Mundella

Emma Mundella, a somewhat obscure British composer, died on this day in 1896, but her birth date in 1858 seems to be unknown.  She is described in Otto Ebel's Women Composers (1913) as "a highly gifted lady" who had written part-songs, piano pieces, and "some church music."  She also wrote an oratorio, Victory of Song, for female voices and strings which was published by Novello.

Among her music instructors were Arthur Sullivan and John Stainer, and she attended the Royal College of Music, becoming one of the first students to receive the Associate of the R.C.M. degree.

I mention her here because she was the editor of The Day School Hymn Book (1896)., which was also published by Novello.  She writes in the foreword that it was her aim to

...provide a Hymn Book for school use which should combine throughout an elevated tone of thought and feeling, both in the words and the music, with sufficient sympathy of ideas to make it acceptable to the young people for whom is is especially intended

Of course, dozens, if not hundreds, of other hymnbooks for the use of young persons had already claimed and would continue to express similar intentions.  At any rate, this book included hymns in German, Latin, and French in addition to many standard Church of England hymns.

In the foreword she also thanks her former teacher John Stainer for "his invaluable help and the unfailing interest he has shown throughout the preparation of this book." Stainer had provided her with a previously-unpublished tune by John Bacchus Dykes as well as composing six new tunes for the book.  

Twelve of Mundella's own tunes appear in the book (remember, the best way for women to get their tunes or texts into a hymnbook was to edit it themselves).  Several of these tunes are in unusual meters that would make them unlikely to be used today, but there are a few possibilities. Unfortunately, none of her tunes are available to hear online.  The Cyber Hymnal does not list Mundella at all, and only acknowledges her as the editor of a hymnbook, without listing any of her tunes.  Maybe someday.


Anonymous said...

Emma Mundella was my great-aunt. Just for interest's sake: she was born on 30 April 1858, in Nottingham.

C.W.S. said...

Thanks very much for the information!

Anonymous said...

She was also my great-aunt. Also for interest, she taught music at Wimbledon High School.