Wesley, Samuel Sebastian
Arranger & Composer
b St Marylebone, London 1810, d Gloucester 1876. Grandson of hymnwriter Charles W, son of the musical Samuel W jr; named after his father and his father’s hero J S Bach. Like many later composers, he was a young chorister at the Chapel Royal, and after serving 3 London churches at the same time he soon became England’s leading organist, working to reform and raise standards of church music including his insistence on a full pedal-board for all organs. From 1842–49 he was organist at Leeds Parish Church; later he uniquely held the post at 4 cathedrals successively—Hereford, Exeter, Winchester (his longest appointment) and Gloucester. His abrasive personality may partly explain why he had at least 11 successive jobs; he is nevertheless acknowledged as England’s greatest composer between Purcell and Stanford. MusB and MusD (Oxford); Prof of Organ at the RAM from 1850. He opted for a Civil List Pension rather than a knighthood and was noted for some eccentricities, musical and otherwise. His combative manifesto was entitled A Few Words on Cathedral Music and the Musical System of the Church, with a Plan of Reform. He wrote some 130 hymn tunes, as featured in his 1872 collection of 733 items, The European Psalmist. SSW is the 5th of the five Wesleys listed in Grove. Nos.16, 226, 271, 398, 577=630, 860, 943*.