Simper was born in the village of Barford St Martin, Wiltshire, the son of a shoemaker. After a period in Worcester, where he worked in a music shop near that was owned by the Elgar family, he moved in the 1890s to Barnstaple where he spent the remainder of his active life working as a choirmaster, organist and composer. In the last capacity he produced a prodigious amount of Anglican church music and organ pieces, written in an unsophisticated, popular style and aimed at small parish choirs and unskilled organists. Although ignored if not derided by critics, his anthems in particular became widely popular and were sold by his publisher under the slogan "Sung throughout the civilized world". Over five million copies had been sold by the 1920s and a few remain in print today, though Simper's musical style has long since fallen from fashion.
Amongst Simper's larger works are the cantatas, The Rolling Seasons and The Nativity of Christ. He also wrote somewhere in the region of 200 pieces of organ music and several miscellaneous works such as "The Silver Clarion", a march which exists in a version for organ and a version for pianoforte. His son, Roland Chalmers Simper was also a composer.
- Free scores by Caleb Simper in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Brian Clegg, "Who was Caleb Simper?" The Church Music Site
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