Henry Cutler Brings English Tradition to USA Choirs

This is the day that Henry Stephen Cutler was born in Boston, USA, in 1824.

Cutler studied organ under A.U. Hayter, organist of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1844, he went to Europe to continue his studies in Frankfurt am Main. While abroad, he visited many English cathedrals and be came familiar with their style of music.

He became famous as an organist, then as choir conductor, at Boston’s Church of the Advent, commencing there is 1852. It was here he introduced the first surpliced male choir in America, and was criticised for it! A surplice is a loose fitting ecclesiastical gown – what we might now call a choir-robe. “Some people considered using robes in a church service to be overly formal!” (Treasury of Great Hymns, by G. Johnson, page 278).

Not to be discouraged, Cutler was appointed organist/choir master at New York City’s Episcopal Trinity Church in 1858. And this time, in honour of a visit by the Prince of Wales, he had his choir clothed in “cassocks and cottas” (a short white linen or lace garment worn over a cassock).

Again it caused a stir … and is thought to have been the cause of the church members “voting him out” at the next meeting, although a different reason was given!

Cutler also played at churches in Brooklyn, New York; Providence, Rhode Island; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Troy, New York; and Newark, New Jersey.

Henry Cutler wrote the melody “All Saints New”, to which Reginald Heber’s words, “The Son of God goes forth to war”, is set in some hymnals.

Henry Cutler died on 5 December, 1902.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Wilson Carlile Founds the Church Army

This is the day that … Wilson Carlile died, in 1942.

Carlile was born in Brixton, London on 14 January, 1847. His favourite toy as a child, he tells us, was Joey Billy, a wooden doll that he played with until “arms and legs and hair had been lost.” But, adds Carlile, “Joey Billy taught me to love poor, disreputable, broken things.”

He suffered from a spinal weakness all his life, which hampered his education. He entered his grandfather’s business at the age of thirteen but soon moved on and learnt fluent French, which he used to good advantage in France trading in silk. He later learned German and Italian to enhance his business, but was ruined in a slump in 1873.

After a serious illness, he began to take his religion more seriously. He was converted by reading Mackey’s Grace and Truth, given to him by a Plymouth Brethren aunt and was confirmed in the Church of England.

Speaking of his conversion he says, “I have seen the crucified and risen Lord as truly as if He had made Himself visible to my bodily sight. That is for me the conclusive evidence of His existence. He touched my heart, and old desires and hopes left it. In their place came the new thought that I might serve Him and His poor and suffering brethren.”

He acted as organist to Ira D Sankey, during the Moody and Sankey missions and in 1881 was ordained priest, serving his curacy at St Mary Abbots in Kensington, together with a dozen other curates. The lack of contact between the Church and the working classes was a cause of real concern to him and he began outdoor preaching. In 1882, he resigned his curacy and founded the Church Army, four years after the foundation of the Salvation Army.

He was known as “the archbishop of the gutter”!

He continued to take part in the Church Army administration until a few weeks before his death.

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.

J S Bach the Believer

This is the day that … Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750.

He was taught violin by his father, became a choirboy at St Michael’s Church, then organist … and so his musical career began to flourish.

He has been described as “the outstanding member of the greatest musical family the world has ever known” (A Gift of Music, by Smith & Carlson). Over 50 musicians bearing that name are remembered by musicologists today” (The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers, by P. Kavanagh).

“I have read countless books and articles,” continues one biographer, “discussing the mystery of Bach’s greatness, and the authors rarely mention his self-acknowledged indebtedness to his Lord and Saviour.”

He was “the greatest organist, not only of his own time, but of all time,” writes another. And as a composer “his lofty genius was wholly consecrated to the service of God in the church that held his heart, and what Palestrina was to the Roman Church Bach became to Protestantism” (Handbook to Church Hymnary, page 257). He was a devout Lutheran.

Some consider his name to be “the greatest in all the history of music, whether sacred or secular.” Whilst he was recognised as the outstanding organist of his day (and many would say “of all time”), it is as a composer that he is now acclaimed.

During his lifetime only ten of his compositions were published, and it was not until a century after his death that the greatness of his musical composition was acknowledged.

Many of his melodies and arrangements are to be found in our hymnals, and his cantatas are still sung by many a church choir, including Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Blind, and on his deathbed, he dictated to his son-in-law, his final chorale, Before Thy Throne I Come…!

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.