Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

(b Ealing, London, 22 July 1830; d Eastbourne, 26 Oct 1903). English composer, organist and educator. He was the second son of Sir Herbert Oakeley, 3rd baronet. His musical gifts began to show when he was only four; at the age of nine, guided by his mother, he began to compose. He was educated at Rugby and at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating BA in 1853 and MA in 1856. At Rugby opportunities for music were few but in Oxford he studied the organ and harmony with Stephen Elvey, the university organist. Visits to clerical friends at Durham and Canterbury strengthened his leaning towards the Church and at one time he thought of taking holy orders. In Leipzig he studied under Plaidy, Moscheles and Papperitz, then he went to Dresden to study the organ with Johann Schneider, and finally to H.K. Breidenstein at Bonn.

In 1865 he was appointed to the Reid Chair of Music at Edinburgh University; he resigned in 1891 on grounds of health and became professor emeritus. His occupancy had been a lively one, full of innovations. He procured a splendid organ for the music classroom, on which he gave many fine recitals (he was particularly gifted in improvisation). He turned the annual concert established by General Reid’s will into a three-day festival (1872), bringing the Hallé Orchestra from Manchester, with some of the most famous artists of the time. In 1865 he founded the Edinburgh University Musical Society for students, which still gives public concerts. His greatest achievement was, however, to persuade the Senatus to make of the Reid School a true faculty of music, with full academic curriculum and power to confer degrees.

Oakeley still found time to compose much, church music especially, but also for the piano, orchestra and voice. His compositional style was generally in keeping with late Victorian fashion; the best-known works included the hymn tunes ‘Abends’ and ‘Edina’, his quadruple psalm chant in F and his sacred partsong ‘Evening and Morning’. From 1858 to 1866 he was music critic of The Guardian. He wrote and directed the music on the unveiling of the Albert Memorial in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in 1876; he was then knighted and appointed Queen’s Composer in Scotland. He was the recipient of many honorary doctorates and other distinctions from universities in Britain and abroad and other bodies.


some MSS at GB-Er

all printed works published in London

A Jubilee Lyric (cant), op.29, Cheltenham Festival, 1887 (1887)

Orch works, incl. Edinburgh Festal March, op.22 (1874); Funeral March, op.23 (1875); 6 Hymns, op.31; Minuet and Trio in Olden Style (1885); Suite in Olden Style, op.27, Cheltenham Festival, 1893 (1893)

Church music, incl. Full Service, E, op.9 (c1880); Psalms and Hymns for Men’s Voices (1889); 7 anthems, opp.26, 32, 34, 39–42 (1903); many other anthems; hymn tunes

Partsongs and songs, incl. 3 Vocal Quartets, op.16 (1858/9); 6 Part Songs, op.17, male vv (c1859); Scottish National Melodies, op.18, male vv, orch (c1859); 4 Choral Songs, op.25, male vv (?1866); 20 Songs, ded. Queen Victoria (1887)

Pf works, incl. 3 Romances, op.33 (1895); Andante, D, org (1887)


Obituary, MT, xliv (1903), 792–3, 800

E.M. Oakeley: The Life of Sir Herbert Stanley Oakeley (London, 1904) [with list of works]



American town in California, near San Francisco. It has its own symphony orchestra (founded 1933), and Oakland public library and museum hold music collections. It is also the seat of Mills College, since the 1930s an important centre for new music. See San francisco, §§2, 3 and 5.

O Antiphons [Great Antiphons].

In present-day liturgy a set of seven antiphons to the Magnificat, each text beginning with the exclamation ‘O’: ‘O sapientia’, ‘O adonai’, ‘O radix Jesse’, ‘O clavis David’, ‘O oriens’, ‘O Rex gentium’, ‘O Emmanuel’. One of these is sung on each of the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (see AM, 208–11). In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the number of antiphons was sometimes as many as 12, with added texts such as ‘O virgo virginum’ (the most popular), ‘O Gabriel’, ‘O Thomas Didyme’, ‘O Rex pacifice’ and ‘O Hierusalem’ (for example, a sequence of 11 antiphons beginning on 13 December is found in the 11th-century manuscript GB-Lbl Harl.2961). It would appear, however, that the first seven were conceived as a separate entity. For one thing, the texts of all seven follow the same basic pattern, first addressing Christ by different titles (‘Wisdom’, ‘Key of David’ etc.), then begging him to come to us (‘Veni’). Perhaps more striking is the acrostic that results when the first letters of the antiphons are read in reverse order: ‘ero cras’ (‘tomorrow I will be with you’), appropriate to the Advent season.

The antiphons originated at the latest in the 8th century: they were known to Alcuin (735–804) and Amalarius of Metz (775–850), and extensive paraphrases of the texts appear in a poem written before 800 by the English poet Cynewulf. The antiphons are all sung to the same 2nd mode melody. They inspired only a few polyphonic settings, the best-known being Josquin’s O virgo virginum. The texts of the seven plus O virgo virginum are troped in the tripla of a series of related isorhythmic motets in I-Tn J.II.9 (14th century). Attaingnant published settings of all seven in a book of motets for three, four, five and six voices, Liber septimus XXIIII (RISM 15349); there are also settings by J.W. Michl in St Peter und Paul, Weyarn. In the late 17th century, Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed settings for three voices and basso continuo.


‘Les grandes antiennes’, Revue bénédictine, ii (1885–6), 512–16

H. Thurston: ‘The Great Antiphons’, The Month (1905), 616–31

A. Weber: ‘Die sieben O-Antiphonen der Adventsliturgie’, Pastor bonus, xix (1906–7), 109–19

R. Hoppin: ‘The Cypriot-French Repertory of the Manuscript Torino, Biblioteca Nazionale, J.II.9’, MD, xi (1957), 79–125

R. Hoppin: ‘A Fifteenth-Century “Christmas Oratorio”’, Essays on Music in Honor of Archibald Thompson Davison (Cambridge, MA, 1957), 41–9

C. Callewaert: ‘De groote Adventsantifonen O’, Sacris erudiri (The Hague, 1962), 405–18

V.E. Fiala: ‘Eine Sonderform der O-Antiphonen’, Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft, xii (1970), 261–7

R. Münster and R. Machold: Thematischer Katalog der Musikhandschriften der ehemaligen Klosterkirchen Weyarn, Tegernsee und Benediktbeuern (Munich, 1971), 61–2

For further bibliography see Plainchant.


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