Henry John Gauntlett (1805–1876) was a lawyer turned organist and organ designer, and an authority on Gregorian chant. In the late 1840s, when he was organist of the Union Chapel in Islington, north London, he ran a class in which, for due remuneration, he taught more than two hundred members of the thousand-strong congregation not only the musical items they were expected to sing, but also the choir anthems in which they regularly participated. His claim to have composed ten thousand hymn tunes is questionable, but he certainly wrote a vast number, of which a mere handful have found their way into the standard hymnals. They include ‘St Fulbert’ (Ye choirs of new Jerusalem
), ‘St Albinus’ (Jesus lives! thy terrors now
) and ‘Irby’ (Once in royal David’s city
). The present harmonization is not Gauntlett’s, however, but that of Arthur Henry Mann (1850–1929), who was organist of King’s College, Cambridge, for more than fifty years and presided over the music in the first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in 1919. The words are by the redoubtable Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of a sometime Primate of All Ireland. This is a striking example of Victorian hymnody. The descants and alternative harmonies are by James O’Donnell.
from notes by Wadham Sutton © 1993