“This is a crack ensemble, the like of which may not exist in our own city”
Boston Musical Intelligencer
15 November 2009
(Harrison, La Koro Sutro)


Charles Villiers Stanford
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
At age 29, a founding professor of the Royal College of Music, where he taught composition for the rest of his life.
Charles Villiers Stanford
Te Deum in B-flat  (1878)
“In Stanford’s music the sense of style, the sense of beauty, the feeling of a great tradition is never absent. His music is in the best sense of the word Victorian, that is to say it is the musical counterpart of the art of Tennyson, Watts, and Matthew Arnold.”
— Ralph Vaughan Williams

Charles Villiers Stanford was a composer, conductor, and, for most of his adult life, professor of composition at Cambridge and at the Royal College of Music, of which he was a co-founder. He wrote music for the concert hall — seven symphonies, 11 concerti, nine operas, 28 chamber works — and sacred works for a worship setting.

His instrumental and operatic work was eclipsed at the turn of the century, partly by his former composition students including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Frank Bridge, who was an important influence on Benjamin Britten. Stanford is now known chiefly for his choral and vocal work.

Stanford was Irish, born in Dublin to musical parents. (His father was bass soloist for the Irish premiére of Mendelssohn’s Elijah.) He was a prodigy, giving his first piano recital at age 7 and already composing when he was 8. By the time he was 12, Stanford was able to play Chopin mazurkas at sight and whatever music his hands were large enough to play.

He was educated at Queen’s College, Cambridge, with organ and classics scholarships. He immersed himself in music and musical organizations, becoming assistant conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society. The Society consisted entirely of men and boys and resisted Stanford’s efforts to admit women. Stanford created the Amateur Vocal Guild, a group whose SATB performances were so successful that the Society agreed to merge and admit women.

Stanford also studied composition in Germany, where he met Johannes Brahms and others, becoming committed to classical forms (Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms). Although he admired modernists (Listz, Wagner), his conservative instructional approach to composition favored classical Brahms techniques.

In 1874, Stanford was appointed organist of Trinity College, a position from which he composed some of his best-known church music — not only anthems, but whole settings of the Anglican service. His biographer counted several among Stanford’s lasting accomplishments, including the Service in B-flat (1879), the anthem The Lord is my shepherd (1886) and the motet Justorum animae (1888).

Te Deum in B-flat  (1878)

We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.
To thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens, and all the powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry:
   Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee.
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee:
   The Father of an infinite majesty;
   Thine honourable, true and only Son;
   Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee and we worship thy name ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us; have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted let me never be confounded.