The Musical Times/Vol. 51/Frederick George Edwards
BORN, OCTOBER 11, 1853.
DIED, NOVEMBER 28, 1909.
To some of us the musical outlook this month resembles a stricken battle-field. At the season when peace, joy and hope should reign our harps are tuned to notes of sadness. None of the losses it is our mournful duty to record affects us more severely than that of Frederick George Edwards, who was Editor of the Musical Times from April, 1897, up to the time of his death. He was seized with illness on November 18, and he paid his last visit to our office on that day. Pleurisy and pneumonia supervened, and on Sunday, November 28, heart failure carried him away in the presence of his wife, son, and daughter. He died at his residence, Canfield, Potters Bar, Middlesex.
The funeral took place at Potters Bar Cemetery on December 2, and was attended by many relatives and friends. Wreaths were sent by the Royal Academy of Music, the Association of North London Presbyterian Choirs, Sir George Martin, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Davies, and other musicians and personal friends. The Rev. Arthur Outram, Vicar of Christ Church, Little Heath, and the Rev. Dr. Monro Gibson conducted the service, which was held at the family residence. Sir Walter Parratt played In Memoriam music during evensong at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on the day of the funeral, and memorial hymns were sung on the Sunday following, in many churches and chapels. At Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road, one of Mr. Edwards's tunes was sung to the hymn, 'I will lay me down in peace,' the whole congregation standing.
Mr. Edwards came of an Essex family, and he was born in London on October 11, 1853. He was first educated at a Brixton Hill boarding-school and afterwards at Dedham Grammar School, and (in 1868) at King's College, London. In 1869 he entered a business house in the City of London. This afforded him an experience of orderly methods that was of great value to him in after life. Even while at school he had acquired some skill in organ-playing, and he now took lessons from Mr. William Beavan, of St. Mary's Church, Kilburn, and later from Mr. Henry Frost, organist of the Chapel Royal, Savoy. The young organist was soon able to deputise and even to give recitals, and in 1873 he played in Exeter Hall. In 1872 the Rev. Newman Hall invited Mr. Edwards to play the organ and train the choir in connection with some special services given in St. James's Hall. On July 20, 1873, as his very interesting diary records, he was invited to play at the Rev. Newman Hall's then famous Surrey Chapel (in Blackfriars Road), and on September 20 he was appointed organist. The singing in this circular chapel (long ago disused as a place of worship) was chiefly congregational, and as there were often between two and three thousand persons present the effect was inspiring.
The success of his work at Surrey Chapel, and the vista of teaching engagements it opened up, led Mr. Edwards, in 1875, to resolve to abandon business and to qualify himself more seriously for the profession by entering the Royal Academy of Music. At this institution, which has trained so many well-known British musicians, he studied organ-playing under Dr. Steggall and passed through the regular curriculum.
In July, 1876, Mr. Edwards migrated with the Surrey Chapel congregation to the newly-built Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road. A fine organ by Lewis was erected in the new edifice, and was a luxury much appreciated by Mr. Edwards and many well-known solo players of the day.
On one occasion the late Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone attended a service. A few days later, at one of his celebrated breakfast parties, the Rev. Newman Hall being on one side and Dean Church on the other, the great statesman spoke with high approval of the organ accompaniments, and added that he thought organists were often prone to display themselves and their instruments rather than to assist the devotion of worshippers. The Rev. Newman Hall at once wrote down this testimony, and asked Mr. Gladstone to sign it, because such an opinion would greatly encourage his young organist. Mr. Gladstone expressed his surprise at the youthfulness of the player and granted the request, and the document is now amongst the numerous valuable autographs cherished by the family. The following is the text:
MEM.-The Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., having attended worship at Christ Church, Westminster Road, on Sunday evening, June 2, I878, expressed his approbation of the practical nature of the performance of the organist-who seemed anxious to promote the efficiency of the worship, and not to exhibit his instrument or himself.
(Signed) W. E. GLADSTONE.
June 13, 1878.
Increasing demands upon Mr. Edwards's time forced him to leave the Academy in 1877, but he continued to study counterpoint and composition under Mr. James Higgs. In 1879 he sought and obtained help of a far more enduring character by marrying Miss Lydia Jessie Williams. It is a very remarkable coincidence that his loving and loved companion, who now with resignation mourns her loss, was born on the same day and in the same year as himself. In his merry moods, and happily they were frequent, he would momentarily daze new friends by gravely stating that not only were he and his wife born on the same day, but by another remarkable coincidence they were married on the same day!
In 1881, Mr. Edwards resigned his organistship at Christ Church and accepted a like post at St. John's Wood Presbyterian Church, where the pastor was and still is the Rev. Dr. Monro Gibson. At this period he began those literary-musical studies which have been the chief accomplishment of his life. In 1885 he undertook the editorship of 'Common Praise,' and this book was published in 1887. Later he wrote a series of articles on the Bronte family, which appeared in the British Weekly, In 1891 he contributed his first article to the Musical Times, then under the editorship of the late Dr. W. A. Barrett. It was on Mendelssohn's 'Hear my prayer,' and it revealed that trend in the direction of a deep appreciation of Mendelssohn's life and music that developed so strongly in later years. Another article from his facile pen appeared in the Musical Times for November, 1892, and was on musical settings of Tennyson's lyrics. Books written or edited about this period were 'The Romance of Psalter and Hymnal,' 'United Praise,' 'Musical Haunts in London,' 'Selected Psalms for Chanting,' 'A History of Mendelssohn's Elijah' (an absorbingly interesting and valuable book), sketches of the lives of Sir George Grove (with whom Mr. Edwards had a voluminous correspondence, all of which is methodically filed) and Dr. E. J. Hopkins. Meanwhile he was (from 1887 to 1897) assisting to answer correspondents of The Musical Herald, and later he contributed many important articles, (the chief of which is that on Arthur Sullivan), to Leslie Stephen's monumental 'Dictionary of National Biography' and to Grove's 'Dictionary of Music and Musicians.' Another still later contribution to historical literature was his share in the Catalogue of the exhibition of the Musicians' Company. From 1906 until his death he contributed regularly to The Guardian, under the signature of 'Diapason,' a series of 'Notes on Church music.'
In 1905 Mr. Edwards resigned the organistship of St. John's Wood Presbyterian Church, in order to devote himself more completely to literary work. The esteem and deep regard felt for him by the congregation found some expression in handsome presentations made to him on his retirement. The twenty-four years' service at this place of worship was one of the happiest and proudest of Mr. Edwards's memories.
Last year he began what promised to become for him a new field of activity. He lectured before large audiences in Edinburgh and Glasgow on 'The importance of praise in the Church service.'
It may not be meet that, in these columns, all concerned during recent years in the production of this journal should express fully their admiration, respect and regard for their late chief. But at this juncture some personal tribute may be excused. They would like to record their appreciation of the ability and painstaking which Mr. Edwards brought to bear not only upon his own ample contributions, but upon the general ordering and tone of the journal. In his onerous and often difficult work he displayed a consuming passion for accuracy. A slip passed over in the stress of 'making-up' would occasion him positive distress. But the strain of the work was generally pleasantly mitigated by his lively and humorous sallies. He was an incorrigible punster, and could through his whimsicalities keep the ball of conversation rolling to the accompaniment of innocent laughter. He was far from being enthusiastic over the development of modern music. Handel, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, the hymn-tune writers, and the English Cathedral school had for him much greater fascination. He did not compose for publication, and he often deplored the quality and quantity of the output of musicians less conscious of their limitations than he was of his own.
In the Musical Times he will be best remembered by his educationally suggestive interviews with musical celebrities, and the long series of articles on cathedrals, churches, and educational institutions upon which, over the signature 'Dotted Crotchet,' he bestowed so much care and erudition. A genial comrade, an exemplar of thoroughness and accuracy, an indefatigable worker with high ideals of duty, less perhaps to himself than to others, his memory will always be cherished by a large circle of co-workers and friends. No separate photograph of Mr. Edwards being available, we present as a supplement a family group showing Mr. F. G. Edwards on the left, his father in the centre, and his son on the right.