Monday, 12 November 2007
John Stainer & the saint of lost causes
If, as a publisher of specialist books on music, we can contribute something to raising the profile of a particular figure, that is a useful and rewarding service that we can offer the "community". John Stainer certainly falls into this category: a giant in his own time but now remembered largely for one work. Jeremy Dibble, author of a recently published biography of the composer writes:
John Stainer was recently launched at Magdalen College, Oxford on the Feast of St Simon and St Jude. St Jude is often remembered now as the saint of lost causes and for many Stainer has been associated with just this kind of sentiment. The Crucifixion, his best known work, may have its detractors,yet its undying popularity since its composition in 1887 tells us something about how ingrained and how “national” the appeal of this piece is to British ears, especially those within Anglicanism.
Stainer was a supreme professional, a deep thinker, one of this
country's finest and clear-thinking theorists, and, at his best, a fine
composer. His hymn tunes, like those of John Bacchus Dykes, are unrivalled,his anthems and services deserve to be better known - Magdalen choir's performance of the Evening Service in E and They were lovely and pleasant in their lives served as a vivid reminder of their quality, inspiration,and craftsmanship - and the musical excellence in our cathedrals and elsewhere, a national treasure, we owe to his vision, hard work and amiable personality. He is indeed one of our major musical luminaries.