2014-11-16 Notes from the Bench

“Hide Me Under the Shadow of Your Wings” by John Ebenezer West

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

 

Hide me under the shadow of your wings,
O Lord,
and give your angels charge concerning me:
That I may lie down in peace,
and take my rest,
for it is you, Lord, only, who makes me
to dwell in safety.

 

The English composer and organist John Ebenezer West (1863-1929) was a life-long resident of London. The text for his anthem, “Hide Me Under the Shadow of Your Wings,” brings together verses from three Psalms: 17:8, 91:11, and 4:8 respectively as a prayer of blessing and sending forth.

John West was born into a family of professional musicians: his father, William West, was an organist and the founder of the North-East London Academy of Music; his mother, Clara West, was a soprano, and his sister, Lottie West, was a contralto, pianist, and teacher. John West began studying music with his father and Frederick Bridge, who was the organist at Westminster Abbey. He attended the Royal Academy of Music from 1880-1882 and earned his Associateship from the Academy in 1898. West served a number of churches in London as an organist including St. Mary’s, Bourdon Street; St. John of Jerusalem, South Hackney; and St. Augustine’s, Queen’s Gate, and conducted various choral societies in London. In addition to his work as a church musician and conductor, West was heavily involved with the publication of music throughout his adult life. He joined the London-based publishing firm Novello and Company in 1884, as an associate editor. In 1897, he was promoted to chief editor and advisor and remained in this position for the next 32 years. He was a pioneer in the publication of music written in earlier centuries and was influential in the preparation of these editions. West was a prolific composer and arranger with over 500 works published in a wide range of genres.

 

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