John Speller's Web Pages Russell, Almighty Lord of earth and skies

John Speller's Web Pages - Choral Music of William Russell (1777-1813)
Russell, Almighty Lord of earth and skies Russell Horizontal
As organist of the Foundling Hospital it was William Russell's job to instruct the orphans in music and to raise money for the orphanage by holding concerts. This hymn-anthem comes from A Collection of Hymns [...], Selected by John Page, Conductor of the Music of the Anniversary Meetings of the Charity Schools (London, 1804), and was written for the Anniversary Meeting of the London Charity Schools, held yearly in St. Paul's Cathedral. This was a major fundraising event, and the quality of the orphans' singing was often extremely high. Mendelssohn was moved to tears by the beauty of the music when he attended one such occasion. This hymn-anthem is signed "William Russell, Feb 3: 1800." The original key was B flat, which leads to a high C in the soprano part. Russell was probably trying to stretch his children, some of whom might be rescued from poverty by making a success of themselves in careers of cathedral or operatic music. In a sense we have a lost art here in writing music for contrasting boys' and girls' used separately and together to achieve rich and changing textures. This is a compositional art that is only just being rediscovered now that some cathedrals have boys' and girls' choirs.


Anniversary Meeting of the London Charity Schools in St. Paul's Cathedral. Drawn by G. R. Roberts, engraved by A. H. Payne, circa 1840

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