Opening Voluntary: “Introductory Voluntary” – Francis Linley (1771-1800)
At Communion: “Voluntary” – Thomas Loud (1792-1886)
Closing Voluntary: “A Fuge or Voluntary” – William Selby (1738-1797)
All of today’s incidental music is counted as being of “Early American” origin, although all of the composers were of English birth. Musically, they all shared a common heritage and produced highly conventional and similar compositions for organ. It would not be until significantly later, in the mid and mostly late 19th centuries, that organ building and composition would take on a unique character in the United States. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, however, much of American organ music in the English speaking parts of the colonies and the United States was indistinguishable from that of its English parent.
The Opening Voluntary is a composition by Francis Linley (1771-1800). Linley, blind from birth, married a wealthy and also blind woman and was able to set up a music publishing business. After his wife deserted him and his business failed, he came to Philadelphia in 1796. He stayed in the United States for only 3 years before returning to England in 1799 where he died only one year later.
The short piece at The Communion was composed by Thomas Loud. Son of an English piano maker, Loud came to Philadelphia in 1812 where he worked as an organist, pianist and piano-maker. In 1824, he and two of his brothers founded the Loud piano company. The piece played today is from a book published by “Loud’s Piano Forte and Music Store “in Philadelphia in 1841. This book had the rather grand title of The organ study, being an introduction to the practice of the organ: together with a collection of voluntaries, preludes and interludes, original and selected, a model of a church service, explanation of the stops and their combinations, studies for the instrument and examples of modulation intended to aid the extempore student: accompanied by an engraving and description of the mechanical construction of the organ.
The Closing Voluntary is by William Selby (1738-1797). Selby was a native of England and emigrated to Newport, R.I. in 1774. In 1776 or 1777 he came to Boston as organist of King’s Chapel, but, during the revolution, when King’s Chapel was closed and unused, Selby was forced to become a storekeeper. In 1783, he returned to his duties at King’s Chapel and became active as an impresario and teacher as well. He produced one of the first sacred concerts ever to be given in Boston, with a program of vocal , choral and instrumental works by Bach, Händel and, of course, himself.