There is probably not a single Church in the UK which doesn’t have some music of John Stainer’s, and most of this would have been dog-eared copies of ‘The Crucifixion’ (I even had a choir where they all used Tonic Solfa editions!)

He was born in Southwark in 1840, his father being a school-master, with a musical interest. Actually he could play piano, organ and flute. The house was full of music including a chamber organ, and John was taught from a very young age by his father. Things moved very quickly for him:-

  • He became a probationer in St Paul’s Cathedral at the age of 8
  • a full member at 9. He was also learning the organ and occasionally played at St Paul’s.
  • By the age of 14 he had been appointed as organist at a local church in St Paul’s Wharf.
  • at 16 he became Organist at Tenbury College, in Worcs for a couple of years under Ouseley
  • at 19 he was awarded Batchelor of Music
  • by 20 he was appointed organist at Magdalen College, Oxford
  • by 21 he became organist to the University
  • by 24 he completed a Batchelor of Arts Degree
  • by 25 he got his Doctorate in Music after writing ‘Gideon’
  • by 26 he got his M.A. from Oxford
  • by 32 he became organist at St Paul’s Cathedral
  • by 42 he was appointed, additionally, as Government Inspector of Music in Elementary Schools
  • by 48 he became Sir John, but he felt that his eyesight was failing (just like Bach and Handel!) and he resigned as organist at St Paul’s.
  • by 49 he accepted the professorship of music at Oxford, for 10 years, but he retired at 59 due to arguments with the authorities
  • at 60 he went on holiday and in Verona he died of a heart attack. His body was returned to Oxford for burial…


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