John Baptiste Calkin

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John Baptiste Calkin (16 March 1827, London – 15 April 1905, Hornsey, London) was an English composer, organist and music teacher.


He was born in London on 16 March 1827. He was son of James Calkin (1786-1862), composer and pianist. Reared in a musical atmosphere, he studied music under his father, and his three brothers, Joseph, James, and George, also adopted the profession.[1]

When nineteen he was appointed organist, precentor, and choirmaster of St Columba's College, Dublin, in succession to Edwin George Monk. St. Columba's College was a school mainly for the boys of the upper classes and for candidates for the ministry of the Church of Ireland; music and the Irish language were prominent features in the curriculum. From 1846 to 1853, Calkin zealously maintained a high standard of choral music at St. Columba's, and he cultivated composition. From 1853 to 1863 he was organist and choirmaster of Woburn Chapel, London; from 1863 to 1868 organist of Camden Road Chapel; and from 1870 to 1884 organist at St. Thomas's Church, Camden Town. [1]

In 1883, he became professor at the Guildhall School of Music under Mr. Weist Hill, and thenceforth devoted himself to teaching and composing. He was on the council of Trinity College, London, a member of the Philharmonic Society (1862), and a fellow of the College of Organists, incorporated in 1893. [1]

As a composer, Calkin essayed many forms, but his sacred music is best known, especially his morning and evening services in B flat, G, and D. His communion service in C is marked Op. 134, a sufficient proof of his fertility. He wrote much for the organ, including numerous transcriptions, and he scored many string arrangements, as well as original sonatas, duos, &c. A few of his anthems are still heard, while his hymn tunes, though not to be found in 'Hymns Ancient and Modern,' are in many other collections. His setting of 'Fling out the Banner' (by Bishop G. W. Doane) has a great vogue in America and the colonies, and is included in the Canadian 'Book of Common Praise,' edited by Sir George Martin in 1909. His 'Agape' was composed specially for the 'Church Hymnary' of Scotland in 1871, to the words 'Jesu, most loving God,' and was inserted in the 'Church Hymnal' of Ireland in 1874.[1]

Calkin died at Hornsey Rise Gardens on 15 April 1905, and was buried in Highgate cemetery.[1]

His most known work is the setting from 1872 of a popular Christmas song I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


  1. ^ a b c d e Flood 1912.

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