Alexander Ewing (composer)
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Alexander Ewing Composer

Alexander Ewing
Born(1830-01-03)3 January 1830
Aberdeen, Scotland
Died11 July 1895(1895-07-11) (aged 65)
Taunton, England
OccupationBritish Army officer
Notable work
"Jerusalem the Golden"
Juliana Horatia Ewing

Alexander Ewing (3 January 1830 - 11 July 1895) was a Scottish musician, composer and translator. He was a career officer in the British Army's Commissariat Department and subsequently the Army Pay Corps. He composed the music for the popular hymn "Jerusalem the Golden".

Family and education

Ewing was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, a medical doctor, was a cousin of the clergyman Alexander Ewing, who served as Bishop of Argyll and The Isles from 1847 until 1873.[1] Ewing studied Music and German at Heidelberg University and Law in Aberdeen, but did not qualify as a lawyer.[2] A member of the Aberdeen Harmonic Choir and the Haydn Society of Aberdeen, he was regarded as "the most talented young musician in the city".[3]

"Jerusalem the Golden"

Ewing composed a tune for John Mason Neale's hymn "For Thee, O Dear, Dear Country" which was first performed by the Aberdeen Harmonic Choir. It was published as a leaflet in 1853 and later included in a Manual of Psalm and Hymn Tunes published in 1857.[4] While he was serving overseas with the army, his relative the Bishop of Argyle and the Isles submitted the music to the editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, where it appeared in 1861 as the tune for "Jerusalem the Golden". The hymn became very popular, but because the Bishop's name was also Alexander Ewing, he was generally believed to have written the tune.[1]

Life and work

In 1855 Ewing joined the British Army's Commissariat Department and served in Constantinople during the Crimean War. From 1860 to 1866 he served in China, returning to England in 1866, and was with the army in Ireland during the 1867 Fenian Rising.[1] He married the popular children's author Juliana Gatty on 1 June 1867 and the following week they left England for Fredericton, New Brunswick.

When Deputy Assistant Commissary General Ewing (with the equivalent rank of Captain) arrived there, the bulk of the garrison was formed by the 1st Battalion of Her Majesty's 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, which was headquartered in the city. His arrival occurred a few days after the British North America Act came into effect to create the Dominion of Canada, of which New Brunswick was one of the four constituent provinces. He was stationed in Fredericton until September 1869, three months after the last British troops had left the former colony of New Brunswick.[5]:xi

On their arrival in Fredericton the Ewings were befriended by Bishop John Medley and his wife. Ewing played the organ and sang in the choir at Christ Church Cathedral, where, his wife wrote in a letter to her family, "the choir generally are quite as much edified and charmed to see the author of "Jerusalem" & quite as much astonished to find (& still a little sceptical) that Argyll and the Isles is not the composer - as if we were all living in a small English watering place".[6]:33 Ewing also composed hymns for the cathedral choir.

On his return to England, Ewing was stationed at Aldershot Garrison.[7] In 1870 he transferred from the Commissariat to the Army Pay Department.[1]

While stationed at Aldershot, Ewing gave music lessons to the seventeen year old Ethel Smyth, who later became a notable composer. Her father was the commander of the Royal Artillery at Aldershot. He strongly disapproved of his daughter's musical aspirations but Ewing, having heard her play some of her own pieces, called her a "born musician who must begin her formal training at once".[8] Ewing taught Smyth harmony, analyzed her own compositions, and introduced her to Wagner's operas. In her memoirs she described him as "a real musician" and "one of the most delightful, original, and whimsical personalities in the world".[9]

In 1879 Ewing was posted to Malta and subsequently served in Ceylon before returning to England. He spent the last six years of his career in Taunton and retired in 1889. Juliana Horatia Ewing died in 1885 and Ewing was married a second time. He died in Taunton in 1895.[1] In 1899 a stained glass window by Charles Eamer Kempe in memory of Alexander and Juliana Horatia Ewing was installed in All Saints' Church in Trull, overlooking their graves.[10]

Ewing's translations of Flowers, Fruit and Thorn Pieces by Jean Paul and The Serapion Brethren by E. T. A. Hoffmann were published by George Bell & Sons.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Obituary". The Times. London, England. 16 July 1895. p. 7. Retrieved 2016 – via open access
  2. ^ Robert Evans; Maggie Humphreys, eds. (1997). "Ewing, Alexander (1830-1895)". Dictionary of Composers for the Church in Great Britain and Ireland. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 107-108. ISBN 978-1-4411-3796-8.
  3. ^ "News notes". The Bookman. 47 (8). August 1895. pp. 130-131.
  4. ^ "Psalter Hymnal (Gray) 618. Jerusalem the golden". Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ Margaret Howard Blom; Thomas E. Blom, eds. (1983). "Introduction". Canada Home: Juliana Horatia Ewing's Fredericton Letters, 1867-1869. Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN 0-7748-0174-3.
  6. ^ Ewing, Juliana Horatia (1983). Canada Home: Juliana Horatia Ewing's Fredericton Letters, 1867-1869. Margaret Howard Blom, Thomas E Blom (eds.). Vancouver [B.C.]: University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 0-7748-0174-3.
  7. ^ Drain, Susan. "Ewing, Juliana Horatia (1841-1885)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Gates, Eugene (2013). "Dame Ethel Smyth: Pioneer of English opera" (PDF). The Kapralova Society Journal. 11 (1): 1-9.
  9. ^ Smyth, Ethel (2013). Impressions that Remained: Memoirs of Ethel Smyth. Read Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4465-4542-3.
  10. ^ "Ecclesiastical intelligence". The Guardian. London. 16 August 1899. p. 5. Retrieved 2016 – via access
  11. ^ Jean Paul (1895). Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces : or, The wedded life, death, and marriage of Firmian Stanislaus Siebenkæs, parish advocate in the burgh of Kuhschnappel (A genuine thorn piece). Alexander Ewing (trans.). London: George Bell. Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ Hoffmann, E. T. A. (Ernst Theodor Amadeus) (1886). The Serapion Brethren. Alexander Ewing (trans.). London: George Bell. Retrieved 2016.

External links

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