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Evensong (Prelude) Softly now the Light of Day

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Uploaded by: Agnus_Dei (10/22/20)
Composer: Saxton, Stanley E.
Sample Producer: Milan Digital Audio
Sample Set: Salisbury Cathedral Father Willis
Software: Hauptwerk IV
Genre: Early 20th century
Stanley E. Saxton (1904-2002) was professor emeritus of music at Skidmore College. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Syracuse University; he also studied organ with Marcel Dupre and Charles Marie Widor at the American School in Fontainbleau in France, as well as composition with Nadia Boulanger. He held his first church organist job at the age of 12, formed his own orchestra as a college freshman, and toured Europe with Paul Whiteman’s Collegians. A member of the American Guild of Organists, Saxton designed and built many pipe organs in the eastern U.S. He also pursued research in indigenous folk music as source material for compositions, and composed many published works for organ, piano, voice, and chorus.

"Evensong (Prelude)" was published by the White-Smith Music Publishing Co. in 1939. It uses the well-known tune "Seymour" composed by Carl Maria von Weber for its thematic material.

Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic and was one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school.

I was immediately taken by the fact that this piece uses the same technique as Brahms used in his famous "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen" from his Opus 122.

Saxton spices things up with a little of Dupre-like harmonies thrown in, and the result, enhanced by the romantic registration with strings, flutes and even the vox humana, make for quite a pleasing outcome.

The text for the hymn was written by The Rt. Rev. George Washington Doane (1799-1859) well-known high-churchman and Bishop of New Jersey.

The first verse is:

Softly now the light of day
Fades upon my sight away;
Free from care, from labor free,
Lord, I would commune with Thee.

Photos of Stanley Saxton and George Washington Doane, and a painting of Carl Maria von Weber are attached below.
Performance: Live
Recorded in: Stereo
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