John Stainer archive to be open to public

England’s distinguished Victorian composer to enjoy anniversary exhibition

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The world’s most comprehensive archive of manuscripts and possessions of John Stainer, composer of The Crucifixion and a well-loved setting of the hymn Love Divine, has been donated to Durham University, and is to be made publically available.

The archive, donated by Stainer’s descendants, includes manuscripts and editions of Stainer’s hymns, scores, paintings, letters and conducting batons.

Durham University’s professor Jeremy Dibble, author of a biography on Stainer, welcomed the donation as ‘an extremely precious archive [which] represents a major part of our national musical heritage.’

Born in 1840, Stainer played an important role in reforming church choirs in England during the 19th century. Becoming organist and choirmaster at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1872, he tripled the size of the choir from 12 boys and six men to 36 boys and 18 men.

Dibble adds: ‘He helped transform church and cathedral choirs from being often dreary, dreadful and undisciplined, particularly at St Paul's Cathedral in London, and turned choral singing into a brilliant art form.’

Durham university will make the archive publicly available for scholars to study, and is planning a public exhibition in time for the 170th anniversary of the composer’s birth in June 2010. There are also plans to digitise some of the resources and make them available for study online.