Reginald Spofforth [1769–1827]

Reginald Spofforth was born in Southwell, Nottinghamshire but moved first to Lincoln and then to London as a young man, studying and working as an organist. Although remembered as an English composer, Spofforth devoted most of his working life to teaching, and was highly respected and sought after in this capacity. He was also extraordinarily hard-working, to the detriment of his own health. He would commonly rise at 4 o’clock in the morning to be fully ready to begin teaching at 8; then he would teach continuously for ten to twelve hours, not allowing himself even a break for a meal during this period. Returning home as late as 9 or 10 o’clock at night, he would finally eat a hearty but hurried meal and then stay up until perhaps 2 or 3 am, either practicing or composing. Such a punishing lifestyle caused him repeated and lasting health problems, and although he eventually took steps to eat more sensibly and lighten his workload (he was obliged to give up professional teaching in 1819), the damage had been done. He suffered some form of seizure around the time of his 58th birthday, was paralysed down one side of his body and died three days later.

Spofforth is not known to have written any instrumental music at all, and he is remembered almost exclusively for his output of around 75 glees, which were much admired during his lifetime. The very first couple of glees that he wrote were composed in 1793, on the recommendation of Dr Cooke, Organist of Westminster Abbey, as entries for the annual prizes given by The Nobelman’s Catch Club for the best serious and cheerful glees. His tyro attempts succeeded in winning both prizes, and kickstarted his compositional career, soon leading to the publication of a set of Canzonets for Voice and Piano. He also wrote three volumes of nursery rhyme settings together with many songs and duets and some hymn settings. Despite the large number of glees that he wrote, he only published a single book of glees (the others were all issued singly) and indeed his published output was small. This was attributed, at the time of his death, to his fastidious approach to his own works and his personally diffident and retiring nature, which abhorred the ordeal of public opinion. Nevertheless, public opinion seems to have treated him kindly, enjoying his works and considering that “sweetness of melody and simplicity of harmony are the characteristics of Mr Spofforth’s compositions.” (anon.)

FM191Hail, Smiling MornSound
Glee arranged for three voices
with optional piano accompaniment
2¼ mins27th May 2015£0.75
Edited by Richard Hallas
Forces: Choir (SA[T+B]), Piano