John Speller's Web Pages Gunn, Lesson No. 6

John Speller's Web Pages - Organ Music
Barnabas Gunn, Lesson No. 6 in E major
Barnabas or Barnaby Gunn (d. 1753) became organist of St. Philip's Church, Birmingham (now the Cathedral) when it first opened in 1715. In 1732 he became organist of Gloucester Cathedral, where he also ran a timber-importing business in partnership with his brother-in-law, John Pascoe, using a former sugar warehouse rented from the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester. In 1740 he returned to Birmingham where he was organist of both St. Philip's and St. Martin's-in-the-Bullring. He also seems somehow to have managed to be organist of Chelsea Hospital at the same time.

Gunn was the bÍte noire of Dr. Hayes, the conservative Professor of Music at Oxford University. Hayes saw Gunn as an artless upstart whose flashy virtuosic style and "mechanical" compositional style was a betrayal of music. Nonetheless from a twenty-first century perspective Gunn's music seems pleasant and well-crafted.

While published as a didactic piece for beginners on the harpsichord, Lesson No. 6 in E is clearly a concerto for organ, probably developed for recital purposes, and cobbled together from three separate organ voluntaries. The first two movements are an Introduction and Fugue, such as might have been used at the end of a Sunday service. This is followed by a Largo in the related key of B minor. Such a movement might have been used as an introductory voluntary at the beginning of the service. The last two movements are a very short Diapason Movement followed by a Cornet movement, forming a Cornet Voluntary such as might have been used at Mattins or Evensong before the first lesson. I have indicated registration such as would have been used in Gunn's lifetime.

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Birmingham Parish Church, St. Martin's-in-the-Bullring, where Barnabas Gunn was organist from 1740 to 1753. The church had a 1726 Thomas Swarbrick organ, the case of which survives at St. Alphege, Solihull. St. Philip's also had a Swarbrick organ, built in 1715, the case of which is still in the building, although transferred from the west gallery to the north side of the chancel.
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