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James Joyce at the Piano in Paris, 1939 James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems
CD #1 Songs
Artwork for CD #1 cover

James Joyce Quote
Sir John Andrew Stevenson, the composer of sacred and sublime melody, was the acclaimed facile princeps of his day.
James Joyce Unquote

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From CD #1:
Oft in the Stilly Night

Words by Thomas Moore;
musical arrangement by Sir John Stevenson

Composer Biography

Thomas Moore

See composer bio under "Silent, O Moyle."


Sir John Stevenson (1761-1833)

Portrait of Sir John Stevenson

Sir John Stevenson [View Source]
Engraving by Edward Scriven, c. 1820s,
after a painting by G.F. Joseph

The son of a Scotch coachbuilder, John Andrew Stevenson was born in 1761 in Crane Lane off Dame Street, Dublin, and became famous as the composer of sacred and sublime melody, the acclaimed facile princeps of his day. At the beginning of his music career he served as an indentured choirboy at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in 1775, and received tutorage under Richard Woodward, Jr. and Samuel Murphy. He was later appointed stipendiary at St. Patrick's Cathedral that same year by Dean Cradock, and at Christ Church Cathedral in 1781.

He became vicar choral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1783, and at Christ Church Cathedral in 1800. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, by the University of Dublin in 1791. He was knighted on 27 April 1803 by Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, lord lieutenant of Ireland. Sir John was appointed the first organist and musical director at the newly erected Chapel Royal of Dublin Castle in 1814.

Stevenson's secular works include catches, glees, odes, operas, songs and symphonies, and accompaniments to airs. He was knighted for his composition of the ode You ladies of our Lovely Isle and a glee with accompaniment Give me the harp of Epic Song, a translation of the second Ode of Anacreon. He was much renowned for his composition of glees. In 1775 he was awarded the Glee and Catch Club's prize for the glee One night when all the village slept. Other glee and catch compositions include Alone on the sun-beaten rock; Buds of Roses (which was awarded the gold medal by the Glee and Catch Club in 1813); and the tuneful catch Come buy my Cherries, popularly known as The Dublin Cries.

Stevenson composed some airs for O'Keeffe's Dead Alive in 1780, which was performed with success in June 1781. Stevenson's songs include Faithless Emma, Dearest Ellen (better known from its opening line, "When the rosebud of summer"), and O ever skilled, written before Stevenson received his knighthood. He composed music for the comic opera Love in a Blaze after Lafont, which was first performed in Crow Street, Dublin, on 29 May 1799, and The Patriot or Hermit of Saxellen (1810).

Stevenson's sacred compositions include twenty-six anthems and eight service settings, not to mention chants, double chants, hymns, and an oratorio, The Thankgiving, a pasticcio from several of his other anthems.

Stevenson is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Thomas Moore (1779-1852) in several musical works where he provided adaptations: Irish Melodies (1807-34) nos. 1 to 4 (1808-12), nos. 5 to 7 (1813-18), nos. 8 and 9 (1821-24), and no. 10 and Supplement (1834); The Sacred Melodies, published in periodical numbers between 1808 and 1834; and National Airs (first edition, 1815). "Oft in the Stilly Night," a Scotch air from National Airs, was arranged by Stevenson in 1818.

Differences arose between Moore and Stevenson, as may be seen in the correspondence of Moore edited in 1852 by Lord John Russell; and after the seventh number of Irish Melodies, the music was provided by Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855). Despite this, Thomas Moore wrote a memorial poem for Stevenson entitled "Silence is in our Festal Halls."

Sir John Andrew Stevenson died on 14 September 1833 at Headfort House in Kells, Co. Meath. In 1843, a marble cenotaph sculpted by Kirk Thomas was erected in the Musicians Corner at Christ Church Cathedral ten years after Stevenson's death, and a stained glass window was placed in the South aisle of St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1864, both in honor of the composer's memory.

* * * * *

The above biography was contributed by Elaine Sherwin, M.A., January 2007. Elaine is currently researching the cathedral works of Sir John Andrew Stevenson for a Doctorate in Historical Studies (Music) at National University of Ireland — Maynooth, Co. Kildare, where she was conferred with an Arts Degree in Music and English in 1998 and a Masters in Historical Studies (Music) in 2000. She obtained a Higher Diploma in Education from Trinity College Dublin in 2001, has taught in various secondary schools, and acted as Choir Director and Organist in churches across Dublin.

Sir John Stevenson

Sir John Andrew Stevenson
by Anthony Cardon (after Charles John Robertson)

A three-quarter length, seated portrait of the Irish composer Sir John Andrew Stevenson. He sits at his desk, in his study, gazing pensively into space, one hand resting on a sheet of music. On his desk is an inkwell and a book of Haydn's operas, with a draped curtain in the background.

(London, 1825). Stipple engraving, proof before lettering, titles added in pencil in a contemporary hand, printed on india paper.
[Source]


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