English composer, organist and musicologist John Stainer was born in Southwark, London on 6 June 1840. His father William Stainer was a cabinet maker, vestry clerk and register of births. John lost the use of one eye whilst a child, due to an accident.
At seven he could play Bach's Fugue in E, at nine he sang in the choir at St Paul's Cathedral and at sixteen became organist of the newly founded St Michael's College, Tenbury in Worcestershire. Stainer became the youngest person ever to obtain a Bachelor of Music at Oxford University.
Later he was organist at Magdalen College, Oxford and then at St Paul's Cathedral.
Due to failing health and poor eyesight he retired from St Paul's in 1888 to Oxford University as professor of music.
John Stainer died unexpectedly in Verona on 31 March 1901, aged sixty, whilst on holiday in Italy.
Stainer's compositions were very popular during his lifetime, and he received many honours and appointments, but only his Passion cantata The Crucifixion (1887) is performed regularly today.
As a musicologist, Stainer was a pioneer in the studies of early and renaissance music, compiling Early Bodleian Music: Dufay and His Contemporaries. He helped to revise Hymns Ancient and Modern.
He made an important contribution to the revival of the Christmas carol with his Christmas Carols New and Old (1871) - some of his arrangements became the standard versions of, for example, I Saw Three Ships, The First Nowell, Good King Wenceslas and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. His 1889 hymn tune Love Divine, All Loves Excelling is also still in use.
A selection of M&V articles about John Stainer
Ensemble. Well Conveyed - Stainer, Tavener, Ireland, Matthew Martin and Vaughan Williams from Derby Choral Union, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Truly Angelic - Passiontide music, recommended by Gerald Fenech. 'An edifying programme in excellent sound and presentation ...'
Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton