Edward John Hopkins
Temple Church, London
first went (to the Temple) there were only two ladies and two gentlemen
in the choir, and they used to sing in the organ gallery. The curtain
would be drawn aside for a few minutes, the singers would sing, and
everyone would turn west to look at them; then the curtain was banged to
with a rattle of brass rings. What queer ideas they had of music and
organists in those days."
That is how
Dr Hopkins described his introduction to the Temple Church. Edward John
Hopkins was born in London on 30th June 1818, and was from a large
family of musicians. His father was a clarinetist and bandmaster. His
younger brother, John (1822-1900) was organist of Rochester Cathedral
from 1856 until his death; and his first cousin, John Larkin Hopkins
(1819-73) was organist at Rochester from 1841 to 1856 and thereafter at
Trinity College Cambridge.
Hopkins was a chorister at the Chapel Royal from 1826 to 1833. He became
organist of Mitcham church, Surrey, in 1834 and after other church posts
he was elected organist at the Temple in 1843. Here he soon acquired a
notable reputation, not only as organist but even more as choirmaster.
our own Temple author and historian describes the modern choir of
gentlemen and boys as coming about almost by accident. Following the
major restoration of the church in 1842, the Master, without enthusiasm,
had accepted the idea put forward by the Church Committee and some of
the Benchers that a Cathedral Service should be introduced. It fell to
John Calvert, a deputy lay-vicar of St. Paul's, to provide a choir for
the reopening of the church.
postponed service took place on Sunday, 20th November 1842 with the
little band of six choirboys and three gentlemen. They were Enoch
Hawkins (alto), John Hobbs (tenor), and John Calvert (bass), with James
Turle, organist of Westminster Abbey, at the console."
of a permanently established choir was still undecided, but after the
closure of the church from 6th August 1843 for three months for 'further
beautifications' it was decided to establish a 'double choir' with six
choristers and three gentlemen each side, the choir having been removed
from the organ gallery. This introduction of a surpliced choir caused
little short of a sensation.
been appointed organist on 7th May 1843, but it was not until John
Calvert was dismissed in 1844 that he was able to assume full charge of
the music and choristers. As a result of a financial incident which led
to Calvert's dismissal, the Benchers appointed a permanent Choir
Committee which has ever since been responsible for ordering the affairs
not only of the choir but also of all matters connected with the church.
In 1848 The
Guardian reported that it was not necessary for the visitor to follow
the service in the Prayer Book as every word could be heard perfectly.
Prince Albert caused some consternation by arriving unannounced and on
foot to attend a choir practice. Henry Humm, perhaps the greatest boy
soprano of Hopkins' day, wrote of the music:
little was new, and nothing was very ambitious, but much of it was
great ability as a choirtrainer, Hopkins soon made the music at Temple a
model for the choral services that were rapidly becoming established in
parish churches throughout the country. He was soon widely known as a
fine trainer of boy soloists; one of the earliest was George Rothwell,
the brother of Frederick Rothwell who was responsible for the rebuilding
of the Temple organ in 1910. George arrived in London in 1852 at the age
of eleven and joined the choir. At the time of his early death in 1867,
George's brother wrote:
used to distinguish him from the first was the perfect absence of boyish
nervousness when singing or playing, and the bold manner in which he
would sing the difficult solos at the Temple which often gained him
great praise. I remember on one occasion, after he had sung a solo that
a perfect stranger met him as he was leaving the church and insisted on
giving him a sovereign for singing his solo so beautifully."
one of the founders of the College of Organists in 1869. He was awarded
the Lambeth Mus.D in 1882. A prolific composer, his anthems and services
were once in great demand and are worthy of resurrection. Only one hymn
tune 'Ellers' (1869) remains in general use. His reputation as a writer
was made by his work on his excellent treatise 'The Organ; its History
occasion of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 the Temple choristers
led the procession onto the steps of St. Paul's. Dr Hopkins at 79 was
among the tenors. This proved to be one of his last engagements, and his
farewell services were sung on Sunday, 8th May 1898 when all the music
played and sung was of his own composition. David Lewer writes that
"a great crowd gathered in the porch and beyond to salute Dr
Hopkins as he proceeded from the church to the Inner Temple gate."
Year's Day 1901, Dr Hopkins was taken ill, and he passed peacefully away
on 4th February, two weeks after the death of the old Queen.
Beet January 10th 2001
The Oxford Companion to Music by Percy Scholes
Letters of Frederic Rothwell, 1900
A Forgotten Organist by Kenneth Shenton 1992
Music & Letters by H.C. Colles 1941
I am most
grateful to Mr David Lewer for all his help in preparing this article,
not least for his permission to quote extensively from his two masterly
works, 'A Spiritual Song' (1961) and 'The Temple Church in London' by
David Lewer and Robert Dark (1997) The latter work is available from the
Temple Church, price twenty-eight pounds.
Copyright © 2001 Stephen R. Beet Used by permission