2015-10-25 Notes from the Bench

“Praise, my soul, the King of heaven” by Henry Francis Lyte and Sir John Goss

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


“Praise, my soul, the King of heaven” is a stately hymn of praise that is frequently sung at the beginning of solemn liturgical celebrations, including the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II (then H.R. H. Princess Elizabeth) to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at her request. A popular hymn, the origin of this text is rooted within the Anglican tradition. The text was authored by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) and the music was composed by Sir John Goss (1800-1880).



Henry Francis Lyte was an Anglican clergyman, a hymn-writer, poet, and an Anglican “divine”, someone whose theological writings are considered the standards for the faith, doctrine, worship, and spirituality of the Anglican communion. Lyte was born in Ednam, near Kelso, Scotland, was educated at the Portora Royal School and Trinity College in Dublin. He was ordained in 1815. “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven” is a free paraphrase of Psalm 103 and was published in 1834 in his book Spirit of the Psalms while he was ministering to a fishing village, Lower Brigham in Devon located in south-west England. Spirit of the Psalms contains 280 paraphrases of the psalms.

The English composer Sir John Goss wrote the music, “Lauda Anima” specifically for Lyte’s text. Goss devoted his work to writing ecclesiastical music and is remembered for his vocal music for the Anglican Church. Goss was educated in London, sang as a chorister for the Chapel Royal, and studied organ with Thomas Attwood, organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Goss was appointed to prestigious organist positions in London: Stockwell Chapel in South London, St. Luke’s Church in Chelsea, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, succeeding his former teacher there in 1838. He was also an active teacher, serving as a professor at the Royal Academy of Music where he taught harmony from 1827 to 1874, and taught at St. Paul’s. Goss was awarded the Gresham Prize Medal for the best original composition in sacred vocal music in 1833 for his anthem, “Have mercy upon me, O God.” Queen Victoria knighted Goss when he retired from St. Paul’s in 1872. In 1876, he received an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Cambridge. Numerous posthumous memorials honoring Goss were erected in London and Fareham.


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