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Samuel Sebastian Wesley

1810-1876. English composer. This influential cathedral organist and composer of anthems was the natural son of Samuel Wesley (1766-1837), the highly talented but somewhat unstable son of Charles Wesley.* Anglican prejudice against the Wesleys hampered him in his earlier years; he was successively organist at Hereford, Exeter, Winchester, and Gloucester cathedrals. Like Bach, he suffered from inadequate forces to carry out his ideals and was angered by official indifference. In 1849 he published a scathing monograph, “A Few Words on Cathedral Music and the Musical System of the Church, with a Plan of Reform” (rep. 1961). How much Wesley's influence was felt in later reform is open to argument. He did, however, write some fine anthems, certainly the best of his generation. “The Wilderness,” with its effective choruses and beautiful bass solo is one of the classics of its genre. “Blessed be the God and Father” has still much appeal, and his Cathedral Service in E is a dignified and worthy example from a period when dullness and mediocrity were the rule. His well-known tune Aurelia, heard with “The Church's one foundation,” was originally written for “Jerusalem, the golden.”

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