Biography of Stanford Charles Villiers (Sir):
Sir Charles Villers Stanford, born in Dublin in the middle of the 19th century at a time when British Imperialism was at its zenith, into a prosperous and well-connected family, was by instinct a Celtic artist but by training was irrigated from essentially non-Celtic art, saxonian and Teutonic. One of the most successful composers of Anglican Church Service Settings, Stanford wrote his first song at the age of four and was a competent pianist, organist and violinist before going to Cambridge in 1870. He rapidly dominated Cambridge musical activity, becoming organist at Trinity College in 1872 and, in due course, professor of music in 1887, he had also become professor of composition of the new Royal College of Music on its opening in 1883. He held both these positions until his death, so had a vast influence on the education of English composers for forty years. Certain aspects of Stanford's music resemble the Germanic tradition, particularly his chamber music, but at heart he retained the inquisitive and seemingly inexhaustible imagination which characterise Celtic art. Quite apart from this, his life was lived very much to the full: a very prolific composer (with almost 200 works with opus numbers, in every genre from opera to symphonies and miniatures, with many other works without opus numbers), Stanford was a brilliant teacher and a most gifted conductor. His energy was prodigious, exceptional amongst composers, his output actually became more prolific as he got older, rather than showing any falling-off. Of all British composers, Stanford was perhaps the most remarkable in his allegiance to the Celtic spirit not in a fey manner but in a genuine dynamism. His contribution to every genre he essayed as a composer was great, especially to Anglican church music, and his contribution to the field of organ music was equally important.
His three motets, Justorum animae, Coelos ascendit hodie and Beati quorum via, were written in 1905 for Alan Gray and the choir of Trinity College, Cambridge. Together they illustrate the essence of his style, with the use of counterpoint, the dramatic and melodic qualities all stemming from his feeling for the words.