William Spark was a colourful character and a prolific composer but it is for his writings, often witty and acerbic, that he is more likely to be remembered today. They paint a fascinating picture of musical life in England in the second half of the nineteenth century. He became an articled pupil of S S Wesley in his home town of Exeter in 1840. When, two years later, Wesley moved to Leeds, Spark went with him. He held several posts, culminating in that of St George’s, Leeds, in 1850. In 1859, with his friend Henry Smart, he designed the organ for the newly built Leeds Town Hall. It was one of the largest instruments in the country at the time, allowing them, during the course of its construction in London, to host a dinner inside its swell box. As the result of a competition held the following year and adjudicated by W T Best, Spark was appointed Municipal Organist. The result of the competition did not please everyone, particularly the residents of nearby Huddersfield – home town of a rival candidate – and accusations of dirty deeds led to heated debates at meetings of the Leeds Town Council. However, Spark kept the job and stayed until his death in 1897. After an introduction and straightforward presentation of the hymn-tune Jerusalem the Golden
– this version of the tune has one note different to that in general use today – Spark’s four variations and fugal finale are cast in traditional mould, exploiting the characteristic colours of the Romantic organ. The quiet ending, with its written-out slowing down, is the more effective for being unexpected.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 1998