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Concert marks 150th birthday of Caian composer Charles Wood

  • 16 June 2016

Today marks 150 years since the birth of Charles Wood, Caian and celebrated composer of Anglican Church music.

Born in Armagh, Wood came to Caius as ‘organist scholar’ in 1889 and remained at the College till his death in 1926, spending his last two years as Professor of Music in the University. When Wood was appointed a Lecturer in Harmony and Counterpoint by the University in 1897 Caius elected him into a Fellowship, and in so doing became the first College in Cambridge to appoint a Fellow in Music.

Current Caius Precentor Geoffey Webber writes: "Wood was both a scholar and composer, and during his time at Caius he created a flourishing musical establishment, founding a choir of men and boys and composing much music for the College which is still in frequent use today, such as his Graces for Feasts, the anthem ’Heaven’, setting words by Caian Jeremy Taylor, and of course the Chapel bell chimes, the hour chime being taken from his partsong ‘It was an English ladye bright’.

"While having particular resonance for Caius, Wood’s music is known all over the world within the Anglican tradition and beyond. No Christmas is complete without his setting of ‘Ding, Dong, merrily on high’ which came about through his research into old Dutch carol melodies. His anthems ‘O thou the central orb’ and ‘Hail, gladdening light’ appear in the repertoire of nearly every church and chamber choir, and an annual Charles Wood Summer School is held every year in the town of his birth, Armagh. Wood left most of his music manuscripts to the College, and the collection is regularly consulted by editors and publishers."

Last night a memorial concert was held in St James, Sussex Gardens, Paddington to mark the 150th anniversary. The event, at which Dr Webber respresented the College, was planned and narrated by the son of Derek Kenyon, a music pupil of Charles Wood. Choral music was performed by two choirs, one directed by former Caius choral exhibitioner Simon Pusey, and string music was played by pupils from the Royal College of Music, marking Wood’s time there as pupil and teacher. CDs of Wood’s complete anthems, recorded by Caius choir, were on sale after the concert.

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