Roberts, John Varley



English organist and church composer; born at Stanningley, near Leeds, and studied in the latter place the piano and musical theory under Bird, also taking lessons from Whitley, a bandmaster, and John Burton, brother of the organist of the town. At twelve he was chosen organist of a church at Farsley, near Leeds, and at twenty-one became organist of St. Bartholomew's, Armley, in 1867 at Halifax, in 1882 of Magdalen College, Oxford, and in 1885 of St. Giles', Oxford. In 1884, on the foundation of the University Glee and Madrigal Society, he became its conductor, a post he still holds, and from 1885 to 1893 was also director of the Oxford Choral and Philharmonic Society. Since 1886 he has been examiner for musical degrees at the University. In 1871 he received from Oxford the degree of Bachelor of Music, and in 1876 of Doctor of Music, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, London. He has lectured at Oxford on harmony and counterpoint, and has given a number of organ recitals. While at Halifax he was instrumental in having the organ rebuilt, after which it was considered one of the finest in North England.


His compositions include the sacred cantatas, Jonah, Advent, The Story of the Incarnation, and The Passion; the 103d Psalm, for chorus and orchestra; morning and evening services, Te Deums, chants, a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, Festival of London Church Choir Association; about thirty anthems, and other church-music; also songs and part-songs. His church compositions are much used in England. He has also published A Practical Method of Training Choristers; Appendix and Supplement to Chatham's Psalmody; Parish Church Chant Book; Hymns for Holy Week; Victoria Jubilee Hymns and Tunes, etc.