John Stuart Archer was born 19th Nov 1866, at Kensington, London, and died 21st Mar 1954, Paddington, London. Despite his importance on the British organ scene, he was not an academic musician, but rather, an engineer with an interest in chemistry. Looking at his compositions, it's really rather hard to think of him as an amateur. In reality, he was a thorough professional, well connected and very much part of the pre-war London organ "establishment". It is true, though, that he he did not start his professional musical career until he was 33, after a false-start as a civil engineer and maybe taking a gap year or three. He came from a background of privilege: the son of the society portrait painter James Archer and the "name-child" of the famous and eccentric Prof John Stuart Blackie (self-invented Scottish man-of-letters), a close friend of his father. So Blackie was Archer's third given-name, not a nickname.
After his first post as "assistant" to Ireland at Chelsea, and his fine playing and society contacts meant that he quickly climbed the greasy pole eventually landing the envied position at Third Church, which had a wealthy congregation and a large new church right in the middle of Mayfair. One imagines the salary was generous and the duties not onerous, and he enjoyed a fine new 3/40 HN&B organ.
"Of the Father's Heart begotten" is based upon the beloved hymn, "Divinum Mysterium." It is the first of "Six Chorale Preludes on Well-Known Hymns," published by Paxton in 1925. It is dedicated: "To W. G. Alcock, M.V.O., Mus. D.," this being the famous Alcock of Salisbury Cathedral.
This wonderful setting is absolutely unique, and tedious with its very busy 16th note figurations. Archer almost "simulates bells," caused by the registration and overtones created. The melody is transformed in ways that struck me as not only creative, but inspired as well.
The score, and photos of Archer and Alcock are attached below.
MERRY CHRISTMAS to ALL!!!