The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Henry Thomas Smart

Photograph of Henry Thomas SmartBorn October 25, 1813, in London. He was the son of Henry Smart, a music publisher, orchestra director, and an accomplished violinist. His uncle, Sir George Thomas Smart, was one of the greatest English conductors and was also the organist of St. George's, Windsor.

Henry Thomas studied music with his father and attended school at Highgate. As a boy, he spent free time at the Robson organ factory and attended scientific lectures at the Royal Institution. As a twelve year-old, he had a talent for mechanical drawing. Later, he refused a commission in the Indian Army so that he could study law. But after four years of a legal career, he completely directed his time and talent to the study of music. He built on his father's earlier training to study on his own. Soon, he was recognized as one of England's finest organists and as an accomplished composer.

He served as organist at the Parish Church, Blackburn, Lancashire, 1831-1836; at St. Philip's, Regent Street, London, 1838-1839; at St. Luke's, Old Street, 1844-1864; and St. Pancras Church, London, 1865-1879. He designed an organ for Leeds Town Hall in 1858 and another at St. Andrew's Hall in Glasgow, 1877. He was one of five organists asked to perform at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

He edited The Presbyterian Hymnal, 1875, and the Chorale Book, 1856, which was later considered the standard for hymn-tune harmonization. Lightwood regards this work as instrumental in determining the harmonic structure of English hymn-tunes just as Bach's harmonizations did for the German chorale. He was also the music editor for Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship, 1867,  and the hymn book of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.He also contributed tunes to Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861, and to Psalms and Hymns, 1867. Smart also wrote as a music critic for the weekly journal, the Atlas.

Smart composed a variety of music including cantatas, trios, duets, songs, an opera, an oratorio, services, organ music, and many hymn tunes.

His eyesight began to wane at age eighteen and he was stricken with complete blindness at age fifty-two. But his daughter recorded all of his compositions for him. Plus, his long recognized gift for extemporizing allowed him to continue his work as organist, composer, and superintendent of more organ installations. He died July 6, 1879, in London.

Regent Square, by Henry Smart, was written for Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship, 1867, a hymnbook for the English Presbyterian Church. Dr. Hamilton, editor of Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship and also Pastor of the prominent English Presbyterian Church in London on Regent Square, named the tune after the location of his church.




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