“But the work really popped with the entrance of the Singers in the ‘Ode to Joy’ finale. At that point there were about 200 musicians making a glorious noise on the Vets stage.”



 







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

The Little Admiral  (1910)

“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.

As a student, Stanford spent some time in Germany, where he met Brahms and others, becoming committed to classical forms (Schumann, Mendelssohn). Although he admired modernists (Listz, Wagner), his conservative instructional approach to composition favored classical Brahmsian techniques.

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.

Sir Henry John Newbolt (1862-1938) was many things: poet, novelist, historian — and, during World War I, was one of about two dozen writers brought into the War Propaganda Bureau, which had been formed to promote Britain’s interests and build public support for the war. He later became controller of telecommunications in the Foreign Office. His 1912 book, Poems: New and Old, contained all of his published poetry (four separate volumes) and 10 previously unpublished verses, including “The Little Admiral,” which had been excerpted widely in newspapers.

The Outlook of January 13, 1915, noted Newbolt’s knighthood and his poetic treatment of British naval history:

Henry Newbolt ... belongs in the very front rank of English poets, and that his knighthood should be given him at this particular time seems appropriate. The singer of England’s naval victories in verses stirring in theme and strikingly individual in manner, the laureate of Drake, Nelson, and Hawke, Sir Henry must find himself in a familiar world when he turns from his own vivid descriptions of the past to the present day, when sentries are again patrolling the shores upon which Drake played at bowls while the Spanish Armada awaited his convenience.


The Little Admiral
Text: Sir Henry Newbolt (1862–1938), in Poems: New and Old

Stand by to reckon up your battleships —
Ten, twenty, thirty, there they go.
Brag about your cruisers like Leviathans —
A thousand men a-piece down below.

But here’s just one little Admiral —
We’re all of us his brothers and his sons,
And he’s worth, O he’s worth at the very least
Double all your tons and all your guns.

Stand by ... etc.

See them on the forebridge signalling —
A score of men a-hauling hand to hand,
And the whole fleet flying like the wild geese
Moved by some mysterious command.

Where’s the mighty will that shows the way to them,
The mind that sees ahead so quick and clear?
He’s there, Sir, walking all alone there —
The little man whose voice you never hear.

Stand by ... etc.

There are queer things that only come to sailormen;
They’re true, but they’re never understood;
And I know one thing about the Admiral,
That I can’t tell rightly as I should.

I’ve been with him when hope sank under us —
He hardly seemed a mortal like the rest,
I could swear that he had stars upon his uniform,
And one sleeve pinned across his breast.

Stand by ... etc.

Some day we’re bound to sight the enemy,
He’s coming, tho’ he hasn’t yet a name.
Keel to keel and gun to gun he’ll challenge us
To meet him at the Great Armada game.

None knows what may be the end of it,
But we’ll all give our bodies and our souls
To see the little Admiral a-playing him
A rubber of the old Long Bowls!

Stand by ... etc.