Wesley prominent English family:
(1) John Wesley, clergyman and a founder of Methodism, brother of Charles Wesley; b. Epworth, Lincolnshire, June 17, 1703; d. London, March 2, 1791. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford (graduated, 1724), and in 1728 he became a priest. With his brother Charles and 2 others, he helped to found the Methodist movement; in 1735 he went to the U.S. with his brother to do missionary work, and publ. his first Collection of Psalmsand Hymns (Charlestown, 1737). Returning to England, he spread the doctrine of Methodism and became famous as a preacher and writer. He has been called “the father of Methodist hymnology.”
R. Green, Works of], and Charles W.(London, 1896); J. Nuelsen, J. W. und das deutsche Kirchenlied (Bremen, 1938); E. Routley, The Musical W.s (London, 1968).
(2)Charles Wesley (I), clergyman, a founder of Methodism, and hymn writer, brother of John Wesley; b. Epworth, Lincolnshire, Dec. 18,1707; d. London, March 29, 1788. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. With his brother and 2 others, he helped to organize the Methodist movement. In 1735 he followed his brother to the U.S. as a missionary but soon returned to England, where he later became associated with the Church of England. During his years as a Methodist, he acquired a notable reputation as a hymn writer. Among his most celebrated hymns are “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
R. Green, Works of John and C. W.(London, 1896); E. Routley, The Musical W.s (London, 1968).
(3)Charles Wesley (II), organist and composer, nephew of John Wesley and Charles Wesely (I) and brother of Samuel Wesley; b. Bristol, Dec. 11, 1757; d. London, May 23, 1834. He was a pupil of Kelway and Boyce in London, then held various positions as a church organist. He publ. in London 6 string quartets (c. 1776), 6 concertos for Organ or Harpsichord and Orch. (c. 1781), Concerto grosso in 7 parts (c. 1782), Variations on “God Save the King” for Piano (c. 1799), 6 voluntaries for Organ (1812), and a Piano Sonata (c. 1820). His vocal works include the cantata Caractacus (1791), 15 anthems, 6 hymns, and various songs.
E. Routley, The Musical W.s (London, 1968).
(4)Samuel Wesley, organist and composer, nephew of John Wesley and Charles Wesley (II) and brother of the preceding; b. Bristol, Feb. 24, 1766; d. London, Oct. 11, 1837. When he was 6 he commenced music studies with the Bristol organist David Williams, and he began to compose at the age of 8; learned to play the violin as well as the organ. He composed the oratorio Ruth when he was only 8; he publ. 8 sonatas for keyboard at 12. He soon acquired a fine reputation as an organist, while composing prolifically. In 1787 he suffered a skull injury in a fall into a building excavation, which impaired him emotionally for the remainder of his life. He was married to Charlotte Martin in 1793, but they separated in 1795; some years later he became intimate with his housekeeper, Sarah Suter; the burden of supporting his children by both Martin and Suter exacerbated his condition. In order to make ends meet, he played in concerts, appeared as an organist and conductor, gave lectures, and taught. In his last years he wrote a number of hymns. Wesley was a notable composer of Latin church music, and he also wrote for the Anglican church. He composed much instrumental music, his masterpiece being the Sym. in B-flat major (1802). He also wrote an autobiography (c. 1836).
5 masses and about 55 other Latin sacred works; the oratorios Ruth (1774) and The Death of Abel (1779); services and anthems; hymn tunes; sacred songs; secular choruses, part-songs, glees, duets, and solo songs; 5 overtures (1775,1778, 1780, 1813, c. 1834); 4 syms. (1784, 1784, c. 1790, 1802); 2 harpsichord concertos (both c. 1774); 4 organ concertos (1787, 1800, c. 1811, c. 1815); 8 violin concertos (1779, 1781, c. 1782, 1782, c. 1782, 1783, 1785, c. 1812); Sinfonia obbligato (1781); 3 string quartets (1779; 1779-80; c. 1800); several trios and sonatas; numerous works for Organ and other Solo Keyboard Instruments.
W. Winters, An Account of the Remarkable Musical Talents of Several Members of the W. Family (London, 1874); E. Wesley (his daughter), Letters ofS. W. to Mr. Jacobs Relating to the Introduction into This Country of the Works of Bach (London, 1875; 2nd ed., 1878); G. Stevenson, Memorials of the W. Family (London, 1876); J. Lightwood, S. W., Musician: The Story of His Life (London, 1937); E. Routley, The Musical W.s (London, 1968); H. Ambrose, The Anglican Anthems and Roman Catholic Motets ofS. W. (1766-1837) (diss., Boston Univ., 1969); J. Schwarz Jr., The Orchestral Music ofS. W.(diss., Univ. of Md., 1971); J. Marsh, The Latin Church Music of S. W.(diss., Univ. of York, 1975).
(5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley, organist and composer, illegitimate son of the preceding; b. London, Aug. 14, 1810; d. Gloucester, April 19,1876. When he was 10 he was elected a chorister of the Chapel Royal; also sang at St. Paul’s Cathedral. He received training in organ and composition from his father. From the age of 16 he was organist in various London churches, including St. James’s Chapel (from 1826), St. Giles (1829-32), St. John (1829-31), and Hampton Parish Church (1831-32), then organist at Hereford Cathedral (1832-35), Exeter Cathedral (1835-41), Leeds Parish Church (1842-49), Winchester Cathedral (1849-65), Winchester Coll. (1850-65), and Gloucester Cathedral (1865-76). He received the degrees of B.Mus. and D.Mus. at Oxford (1839). He won great renown as an organist, excelling at improvisation. As a composer, he became best known for his Anglican cathedral music.
13 pieces of service music; 38 anthems, including such well-known examples as Ascribe unto the Lord, Blessed Be the God and the Father, Let Us Lift Up Our Heart, The Wilderness and the Solitary Place, Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace”, and “Wash Me Thoroughly”; secular choruses, part-songs, glees, and songs; Sym. (c. 1832); ballet music; Overture in C (c. 1827); organ music; piano pieces. COLLECTIONS AND EDITIONS: “The Psalter...with Chants” (Leeds, 1843);” A Selection of Psalms and Hymns” (London, 1864); “The European Psalmist” (London, 1872); “The Welburn Appendix of Original Hymns and Tunes” (London, 1875).
A Few Words on Cathedral Music (London, 1849); Reply to the Inquiries of the Cathedral Commissioners Relative to the Improvement in the Music of Divine Worship in Cathedrals (London, 1854).
G. Stevenson, Memorials of the W. Family (London, 1876); E. Routley, The Musical W.s (London, 1968); P. Chappell, Dr. S.S. W.(Great Wakering, 1977).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire