Alexander’s Hymns and Her

This is the day that … Charles McCallon Alexander was married, in Birmingham, England, in 1904.

“Charlie”, as he was known, followed his musical training with evangelistic preparation at Moody Bible Institute. He spent 3 months as a singing associate of Quaker evangelist John Kittrell, and in 1893 was associated with Dwight L. Moody in the revival services connected with the World’s Fair at Chicago.

A new style of hymn had recently been developed, dubbed revival songs. These were more rhythmically interesting, often involving change of rhythm within a song. As a result these songs required a song leader to keep everyone in time. Alexander was gifted in this role and so became a popular choir leader.

For seven years Alexander travelled with revivalist Milan B. Williams, principally in Iowa, but also around the USA. Between 1902 and 1904 he travelled with Rev Dr R.A. Torrey to Australia, New Zealand, India and England.

With Alexander as soloist/song leader/choir director and Dr Reuben A. Torrey as evangelist the scene was set for their second Britain campaign.

During a lonely Christmas (1903) Alexander, then 36 years of age, had prayed for a wife. And the following month, as he trained a 1600-voice choir for the Birmingham meetings, he spied Helen Cadbury. Before the month was over he had proposed … and they were married the following July.

Helen Cadbury was 27, of Quaker extraction, and she was from the famous Cadbury Chocolate family. She had been converted as a child, going forward to confess Christ at a meeting run by her father for down-and-outers.

In 1908 Mrs Helen Alexander founded the Pocket Testament League, a non-denominational organisation dedicated to distributing the Word of God.

Alexander published hymnbooks, commencing with Revival Songs (Melbourne, 1901); Revival Hymns (London, 1903); and Revival Hymns (another collection; Chicago, 1906). His final contribution was Alexander’s Hymns No 3 (1915) which became famous internationally and was popularly used for more than half a century.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

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