King's Business - 1954-06

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By Phil Kerr Onward Christian Soldiers


Music by Arthur Sullivan

Words by Sabine Baring-Gould I n 1864 the author was a curate of a small mission in Horbury, England. Whitmonday was a public holiday, and the occasion for a school festival. The school children were to march from Hor­ bury to a neighboring village. (Whitsuntide is seven weeks after Easter.) “ I wanted the children to sing when marching from one village to another, but couldn’t think of anything quite suitable,” wrote Baring-Gould; “ so I sat up at night, resolved that I would write something myself. ‘Onward Chris­ tian Soldiers’ was the result. It was written in great haste, and I am afraid some of the rhymes are faulty. Certainly nothing has sur­ prised me more than its popular­ ity.” It was first published in the Church Times, October 15, 1864, titled “ Hymn For Procession With Cross and Banners.” St. Albans, a slow tune taken from Haydn’s Symphony in D was originally sung with “ Onward Christian Soldiers.” Its use was superseded by St. Gertrude because the composer was visiting in the home of a friend, Mrs. Gertrude Clay-Ker-Seymer, at the time of its composition. Sabine Baring-Gould was born in Exeter, England, January 28, 1834, of a wealthy family. He spent many early years in France and Germany, studied for the min­ istry, and was ordained in 1861. He moved frequently, from one pastorate to another, but it was during his stay in Horbury that

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his two famous songs were written, “Now The Day Is Over” and “ On­ ward Christian Soldiers.” Horbury was a small village, populated by poverty ' stricken mill-hands and miners. He fell in love with one of the poorest mill-hands, Grace Taylor, and she became his wife. After 50 years of married life, he inscribed on her tombstone, “Half my soul.” Baring-Gould was a prolific writ­ er, writing on a multiplicity of subjects,— theology, travel, histo­ ries of Caesar and Bonaparte, his­ tory of legends and myths, and origin of folk-tunes. He published at least 85 books. He died Janu­ ary 2, 1924. Sir Arthur Sullivan was born in London, May 13, 1842, the son of a noted bandmaster. Musical ability was evidenced in early youth, his first composition being published and widely acclaimed when he was 13. He became a successful organist, choral and or­ chestral conductor, and composer. Many oratorios, anthems, light op­ eras, and church hymns came from his pen. His religious music was largely written between the years of 1867 and 1874, when he was musical editor of Church Hymns. In the realm of secular music, Sullivan is remembered especially for having written “ Pinafore” and “ The Mikado” with W. S. Gilbert. In the realm of religious music his most noted compositions are “ Onward Christian Soldiers” and “The Lost Chord.” He died in Westminster, November 22, 1900.

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JUNE 1954


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