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Samuel Sebastian Wesley Edit Profile

Composer , organist

Samuel Sebastian Wesley was an English organist and composer.


Born in London on the 14th of August 1810, he was the eldest child in the composer Samuel Wesley's second family, which he formed with Sarah Suter having separated from his wife Charlotte.


In 1839 he received both his Bachelor of Music degree and a Doctorate of Music degree from Oxford.


He was the one of the Children of the Chapel Royal from 1819, held various unimportant posts as organist from the age of fifteen, and in 1832 was appointed to Hereford Cathedral.

His career as a composer began with his splendid anthem, "The Wilderness, " which was probably written for the opening of the Hereford organ in that year. In 1834 it fell to him to conduct the Festival of the Three Choirs, and in the following year he resigned Hereford for Exeter Cathedral; and during the next six years his name became gradually more and more widely known.

In 1842 Dr Hook, afterwards dean of Chichester, offered him a large salary to become organist of Leeds parish church, and at Leeds much of his finest work as a composer was done.

In 1849 he quitted this post for Winchester, in order to secure educational advantages for his sons.

He became a Professor of Organ at the Royal Academy of Music in 1850.

He was at Winchester until 1865, when he offered himself as a candidate for Gloucester Cathedral, the last of his many posts. He again conducted the Three Choirs Festivals of 1865, 1868, 1871 and 1874.

A civil list pension of £100 a year was conferred on him in 1873; he died at Gloucester on the 19th of April 1876, and was buried at Exeter. He is buried next to his daughter in St. Bartholomew's Cemetery in Exeter by the old City Wall.

If the list of his compositions is smaller than that of his father's, it must be remembered that his anthems, in which is contained his best work, are far more important and more extensive than most compositions so called: in many of them the whole anthem is no longer sung, but even the j elections from them make up anthems of ordinary length.


  • His "Blessed be the God and Father, " "The Wilderness, " already mentioned, "Ascribe unto the Lord, " "О Lord, Thou art my God, " and many others, are masterpieces in their way, and in all of these, as in the service in E, published with a rather trenchant preface in 1845, there is a happy combination of the modern resources of harmony with the dignified cathedral style, a combination which naturally alarmed the orthodox party of his time.

    Wesley, with Father Willis, can be credited with the invention of the concave and radiating organ pedalboard, but demurred when Willis proposed that it should be known as the "Wesley-Willis" pedalboard.



Like his father he was a very eccentric man, but his compositions show powers that are found in very few Englishmen of his date.


He was married to the sister of the Dean, John Merryweather.

Samuel Wesley