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Home / Authors, Composers and Clinicians / GOSS, John(1800-1880)
GOSS, John(1800-1880)
Picture About GOSS, John(1800-1880)

Sir John Goss (27 December 1800 – 10 May 1880) was an English organist, composer and teacher.

Born to a musical family, Goss was a boy chorister of the Chapel Royal, London, and later a pupil of Thomas Attwood, organist of St Paul's Cathedral. After a brief period as a chorus member in an opera company he was appointed organist of a chapel in south London, later moving to more prestigious organ posts at St Luke's Church, Chelsea and finally St Paul's Cathedral, where he struggled to improve musical standards.

As a composer, Goss wrote little for the orchestra, but was known for his vocal music, both religious and secular. Among his best-known compositions are his hymn tunes "Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven" and "See, Amid the Winter's Snow". The music critic of The Times described him as the last of the line of English composers who confined themselves almost entirely to ecclesiastical music.

From 1827 to 1874, Goss was a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, teaching harmony. He also taught at St Paul's. Among his pupils at the academy were Arthur Sullivan, Frederic Cowen and Frederick Bridge. His best-known pupil at St Paul's was John Stainer, who succeeded him as organist there.

In the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, W H Husk and Bruce Carr write of Goss, "His glees enjoyed long popularity for their grateful vocal writing. As a church composer his reputation came later, through the grace and the careful word-setting of his anthems, composed mostly after 1850." They quote a contemporary as saying that Goss's music "is always melodious and beautifully written for the voices, and is remarkable for a union of solidity and grace, with a certain unaffected native charm." Judith Blezzard, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, writes:

Goss was one of the most important early Victorian church composers, his anthems and services being most notable for their flexibility of phrasing, attention to detail in word-setting, and sense of proportion and balance. … In 1852 his anthem "If we believe that Jesus died", written for the funeral of the duke of Wellington, created a profound impression. In 1854 he produced the anthem "Praise the Lord, o my soul" for the bicentenary festival of the sons of the clergy. … Some of his anthems, including "The Wilderness" (1861), "O taste and see" (1863), and "O saviour of the world" (1869), have held a modest but enduring place in the repertory of English church music.

Blezzard adds that Goss is chiefly remembered for his two most famous hymn tunes: "Praise my soul the King of Heaven" (1869) and "See, amid the winter's snow" (1871).

In the Dictionary of National Biography in 1890, J A Fuller Maitland wrote, "The best of Goss's works are distinguished by much grace and sweetness, underlying which is a solid foundation of theoretic and contrapuntal science. It is difficult to resist the assumption that at least some part of this happy combination was inherited, through Attwood, from Mozart. Goss was the last of the illustrious line of English composers who confined themselves almost entirely to ecclesiastical music." Among Goss's works, Fuller Maitland singled out for particular praise the glee "Ossian's Hymn to the Sun", and the anthems "The Wilderness," "O taste and see," and "O Saviour of the World".