The First Noel by John Stainer piano sheet music

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Artist’s Information:

Sir John Stainer (London, 6 June 1840 – Verona, 31 March 1901) was an English composer and organist whose music, though not generally greatly admired today (with the possible exception of The Crucifixion), was much performed during his lifetime. His work as choir trainer and organist, however, set standards for Anglican church music which are still influential. He was also active as an academic, becoming professor of music at Oxford University in 1889. According to Peter Charlton’s Stainer biography, Arthur Sullivan’s tribute to Stainer was blunt and memorable: “He is a genius”.

Stainer was born in Southwark, London, on 6 June 1840. As a boy, he sang in the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral. A house in the present choir school is named after him. At the age of 16, he was appointed by Sir Frederick Ouseley to the post of organist at the newly founded St. Michael’s College, Tenbury. Because of a childhood accident, Stainer had lost the use of one eye; for a brief period in 1875 he lost that of the other too.

In 1860 he became organist at Magdalen College, Oxford, moving to St Paul’s Cathedral in 1872. Thirteen years afterwards, he was awarded an honorary degree by Durham University; and he became professor of music at Oxford University in 1889. He conducted pioneering research into early music, notably the output of Guillaume Dufay, then scarcely known even among experts. He also contributed a small treatise, Composition, to the famous series of Novello musical primers. In recognition of his services to British music-making, he received a knighthood from Queen Victoria in 1888.

Song Facts:

The First Nowell (also written The First Noël) is a traditional classical English carol, most likely from the 18th century, although possibly earlier. The word Noel comes from the French word Noël meaning “Christmas”, from the Latin word natalis “birthday”.

In its current form it is of Cornish origin, and it was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833), both of which were edited by William B. Sandys and arranged, edited and with extra lyrics written by Davies Gilbert Hymns and Carols of God. Today, it is usually performed in a four-part hymn arrangement by the English composer John Stainer, first published in his Carols, New and Old of 1871.


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