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Basil Harwood (11 April 1859 – 3 April 1949) was an English organist and composer.

Basil Harwood
Background information
Birth nameBasil Harwood
Born(1859-04-11)11 April 1859
Woodhouse, Gloucestershire, England
Died3 April 1949(1949-04-03) (aged 89)
London, England
GenresOrgan music
Occupation(s)Organist and composer
Years active1883–1935


Basil Harwood was born in Woodhouse, Gloucestershire (the second youngest of 12 children) on 11 April 1859. His mother died in 1867 when Basil was eight. His parents were Quakers but his elder sister Ada, on reaching 21 in 1867, converted to the Anglican Church. Basil was allowed to attend the ceremony at the Church of England in Almondsbury and this is where he was first drawn to organ music and choral singing. His father, Edward, remarried two years later in 1869 to a lady from an Anglican family. Basil was now sent to the Montpellier School in Weston-super-Mare for a year. In 1871, at 12 he was enrolled in Clevedon, the preparatory school for Charterhouse where he was first to formally study music.

He went up to Charterhouse in 1874 and left in 1876 having won an Exhibition to Trinity College, Oxford where he initially studied Classics (1879) and Modern History (1880). He studied for a further two years, 1881–1882, at the Leipzig Conservatory under Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn. It was here in 1882 that he composed his first anthem for chorus and organ O Saving Grace. He returned from Leipzig, having then passed the age limit to study music formally.

In 1883, Basil became organist of St. Barnabas Church, Pimlico completing his Sonata in C# Minor here in 1885, selling the copyright to the publisher Schott for one shilling a year or two later. After this success, he moved to Ely Cathedral in 1887 where he wrote the bulk of Dithyramb, possibly his greatest organ work. His final appointment was as organist at Christ Church, Oxford and as precentor of Keble College, Oxford from 1892 to 1909. Whilst there he co-founded and conducted the Oxford Bach Choir which helped to earn him his degree as Doctor of Music. He conducted the Oxford Orchestral Association (1892–1898). He was musical editor of the 1908 Oxford Hymn Book and Examiner for Musical Degrees (1900–1925)

During this time, he met and married Mabel Ada Jennings (the daughter of George Jennings) (who had become a pupil of his in 1896) at All Souls St. Marylebone, London (27 December 1899). Mabel had studied music herself, piano and composition, and was also a writer. She may well have composed lyrics for some of his lesser known tunes and she set her own arrangements to music, such as the song La Belle Dames sans Merci (poem written by John Keats), composed by Mabel Jennings and published in 1899 by Novello and Company Ltd, London and Novello, Ewer & Co., New York City. At an advanced age she wrote a small volume of collected poems named Questing Soul and died shortly before her 103rd birthday.

He retired early at 50 (in 1909) after the death of his father, Edward Harwood, from whom he inherited the family estate of Woodhouse having outlived his seven older brothers. Soon after moving in he had a three manual chamber organ built in the library by Bishop & Sons of Ipswich (now in Minehead Parish Church), on which he promptly finished his Sonata in F# Minor. He continued to compose prolifically.

He was a keen walker, and named many of his hymn tunes after local places that he loved to visit, the most notable being the hymn tunes such as Tockington, Olveston, Almondsbury, Luckington and Thornbury.

In 1936 advancing in years, he let the Woodhouse estate and moved to Bournemouth. Part of the estate, Woodhouse Down, was later sold to his contemporary Robert Baden-Powell who was two years older than he was and who had also attended Charterhouse School, and is used as a Scout Camp to this day.

In 1939, at eighty, he moved to a flat in Fleet Street, in London. He died on 3 April 1949, eight days short of his 90th birthday, at Courtfield Gardens in Kensington, London. A memorial service was held in St Paul's Cathedral on 22 April 1949. Mabel survived him, dying shortly before her 103rd birthday on 20 July 1974.

His remains are interred in St. Barnabas Church, Pimlico and marked by a plaque inset in floor of the chancel, close to where he would have stood to conduct the choir.

Basil and Mabel Harwood had two children: John Edward Godfrey Harwood (born 1900), author of Speed and how to obtain it, and Basil Antony Harwood (born 1903), barrister. Harwood dedicated his Op.50 Lullaby to grandson Christopher Harwood; another grandson, Giles Harwood, became chief justice of Tonga.


He composed cantatas, church music and works for the organ; his Service in A flat, the anthem O how Glorious and the hymn tunes Luckington ("Let all the world in every corner sing") and Thornbury ("Thy hand O God has guided"), first used during a festival of the London Church Choir Association, remain in the Anglican repertory.

Organ and choral worksEdit

  • Op.2 No.1 Agnus Dei
  • Op.2 No.2 O Salutaris
  • Op.5 Sonata No.1 in C sharp minor 1886
  • Op.6 Morning & Evening Canticles in A flat major (Choir)
  • Op.7 Dithyramb
  • Op.12 O How Glorious is the Kingdom
  • Op.13 No.1 Sing and Rejoice
  • Op.13 No.2 When the Son of Man shall come
  • Op.14 Short Setting of the Office for the Holy Communion in D major 1902
  • Op.15 No.1 Communion in F major 1902
  • Op.15 No.2 Interlude in D major 1902
  • Op.15 No.3 Paean 1902
  • Op.15 No.4 Short Postlude for Ascensiontide 1902
  • Op.15 No.5 Requiem Aeternam 1902
  • Op.15 No.6 Andante Tranquillo 1902
  • Op.16 Capriccio for Organ 1903
  • Op.18 Two Sketches for Organ 1903
  • Op.20 As by the Streams of Babylon (Choir) 1907
  • Op.21 This is the day which the Lord hath made
  • Op.22 Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me 1909
  • Op.24 Concerto in D major for Organ & Orchestra
  • Op.25 Three Cathedral Preludes (Organ)
  • Op.26 Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor 1912
  • Op.27 Song on May Morning 1913
  • Op.32 in an Old Abbey 1923
  • Op.34 Christmastide 1920
  • Op.35 Short and Easy Setting of the Office for the Holy Communion in key of E flat 1920
  • Op.38 Morning & Evening Canticles in E minor (Choir)
  • Op.39 Rhapsody for Organ 1922
  • Op.40 Wedding March 1923
  • Op.41 O How Plentiful is Thy Goodness
  • Op.42 Three Preludes on Anglican Chants (Organ) 1925
  • Op.43 Voluntary in D flat
  • Op.44 Processional (Organ) 1926
  • Op.45 Three Short Pieces for Organ 1927
  • Op.46 in Exitu Israel (Organ) 1928
  • Op.49 Toccata (Organ)
  • Op.50 Lullaby (Organ)
  • Op.51 Prelude, Larghetto and Finale (Organ) 1931
  • Op.52 Two Preludes (organ)
  • Op.54 Let the People Praise Thee O God
  • Op.57 Two Meditations: The Shepherd on the Mountain Side; The Pilgims nearing the celestial city (Organ) 1934
  • Op.58 8 pieces for organ.
  • Op.60 No.2 All My Heart this Night Rejoices
  • Op.64 Draw Nigh to God
  • Op.65 Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A (For Men's Voices)
  • Op.70 Voluntary for Organ in D flat major 1926
  • Communion for Organ on the hymn tune “Irish”
  • Evensong for St Etheldreda

Hymn tunesEdit

  • Luckington – Let All the World in Every Corner Sing
  • Thornbury 1898 – Thy Hand O God hath Guided [and] O Jesus I Have Promised
  • O How Glorious is The Kingdom 1894
  • Draw Nigh to God
  • I am the Living Bread
  • In God's Holy Dwelling
  • Great God, and Wilt Thou Condescend?
  • St Audrey – Blessed Thomas, Doubt No Longer [and] Lord of Beauty, Thine the Splendour
  • Sweet Saviour, Bless Us
  • O Sacred Banquet
  • Oldown - My God I think thee who hast made [et al.]
  • Alveston - God is Working his Purpose out
  • Hazel - Now the labourer's task is o'er
  • Panis Vere - Blest Are the Pure in Heart
  • Elberton - Peace Perfect Peace in this Dark World of sin [and] Draw nigh and take the body of the/our Lord

Psalm settingsEdit

  • (Psalm 40) I waited patiently for the Lord (Anglican Chant in A flat)

References and bibliographyEdit

External linksEdit