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Teach me, O Lord

author of text
Psalm 119: 33

Thomas Attwood (1765-1838) was appointed organist of St Paul's Cathedral in 1796 and is buried there. One of his short anthems, Come, Holy Ghost, was featured in volume 3 of this series. The present anthem, Teach me, O Lord, shares with that work a successful simplicity which has stood the test of time. But this is not always the case with Attwood's works. In the earlier part of his life he was particularly interested in music for the stage; his output includes thirty-two operas.

At the end of the eighteenth century the deteriorating taste of English church music was reflected in the introduction of over-ornate solos in verse anthems, which, stylistically, were borrowed wholesale from opera. This is documented in A Short Account of Organs Built in Britain (1847) by Sir John Sutton who writes:

[The cathedral organist] considers himself as a first-rate performer, and persuades other people that he is so too, and on the strength of this he inflicts upon the congregation long voluntaries, interludes, which consist either of his own vulgar imagination, or selections from the last new opera.

Attwood was part of this tradition, although he had the sense to write simpler music too. The orchestral introduction to his coronation anthem I was glad contains the national anthem as a counter-melody, whilst that of O grant the king a long life contains more than a nodding acquaintance with Dr Arne's Rule, Britannia!

Attwood had many friends and was widely known as a gentleman. He was a pupil of Mozart and owned a large house on Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood in South London, where Mendelssohn, a good friend, was a visitor.

from notes by William McVicker 1994


The English Anthem, Vol. 4
CDA66678Archive Service


Track 10 on CDA66678 [2'14] Archive Service

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