T. Tertius Noble

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T. Tertius Noble
T. Tertius Noble 001.jpg
Thomas Tertius Noble

(1867-05-05)May 5, 1867
DiedMay 4, 1953(1953-05-04) (aged 85)
EducationRoyal College of Music
Occupation(s)Organist and composer

Thomas Tertius Noble (May 5, 1867 – May 4, 1953) was an English-born organist and composer, who lived in the United States for the latter part of his career.

He served as organist and choirmaster at a number of churches including Ely Cathedral and York Minster in England and St Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City. He is chiefly remembered for his music for the Anglican church.

Early life and education[edit]

Noble was born on 5 May 1867 in Bath, England, to Thomas Noble (a silversmith) and Sarah Jefferson.[1][2] The name 'Tertius' derives from Noble being the third Thomas in his family.[3]

In his youth, Noble was introduced to the pipe organ by James Pyne, organist at Bath Abbey, and from 1880 he was tutored in the organ at Gloucester Cathedral. Frederick Ouseley declined to accept Noble as a student at his music school, citing that "the market was over-stocked."[3] He sent his first composition, Theme and Variations, to Rheinberger and Best; their feedback was mixed.[3]

At the age of 15 he was appointed organist at All Saints' Church, Colchester, where he was also educated by the rector. He won a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Music, where he was tutored by Walter Parratt, Charles Villiers Stanford and Frederick Bridge,[4] and made other close connections with George Grove and John Stainer.[3]


The organ of York Minster, where Noble served 1898-1913
Choristers singing at St Thomas Episcopal Church, Manhattan, a tradition established by Noble in the early 1910s

After graduating from the Royal College of Music in 1889, Noble was appointed a member of staff there, teaching the organ. He also took the position of organist at the Church of St John the Evangelist, Wilton Road, in London.[4]

In 1890, Stanford recommended him to fill the vacancy as his assistant organist at Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge. Noble was dissatisfied with the quality of singing and Stanford's bad temper,[5] leaving Trinity in 1892 to serve as organist and choirmaster at Ely Cathedral.

From 1898 to 1913 Noble served as organist at York Minster. While there, he established the York Symphony Orchestra and composed pieces for them. He was also conductor of the York Musical Society and in 1910 revived the York Festival.[4]

In January 1913 Noble moved to America after accepting the post of organist and choirmaster of St Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City, traversing on the Carmania.[3] He was responsible for establishing a choral tradition at St Thomas's along Anglican cathedral lines. He also oversaw the installation of a new organ at the chuch and founded the Saint Thomas Choir School for boys in 1919. This was Noble's final position, which he held for 35 years.[4]

In 1932 Noble became the first person outside the British Isles to be awarded the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Music by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was an examiner and member of the national council of the American Guild of Organists and also served as president of the National Association of Organists.[2] He was a member of the Hymn Society of America, and served as its president for multiple terms.[6]

Noble composed orchestral and chamber music, including an orchestral Introduction and Passacaglia performed at The Proms on 17 August 1945, where it was conducted by a former pupil, Basil Cameron.[7] But he is now remembered for his music for the Anglican church, particularly his Evening services in A major, B minor and A minor, and his anthems Go to dark Gethsemane, Souls of the Righteous, and Grieve not the Holy Spirit. His tunes were used for seven hymns in The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, 1940.[8] His tune Ora labora for the hymn Come, labour on is well known in the United States, as is his edition of Handel's Messiah, published by G. Schirmer in 1912.[9] For Lowell Mason's sesquicentennial celebrations, he wrote an organ prelude based on Mason's Watchman.[10]


Noble died on 4 May 1953, the day before his 86th birthday, in Rockport, Massachusetts, and he was buried at Beech Grove Cemetery there. The hymn tune "Rockport" composed by Noble was named after the city of his death.[1]

In 1897 Noble married Meriel Maude Stubbs (daughter of Charles Stubbs, Dean of Ely), with whom he had a son, Philip Raymond Noble (1903–1979).[2] His nephew was the English jazz composer and actor Ray Noble (1903–1978).[11]



  1. ^ a b McKim, LindaJo H. (1993). The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 154–155. ISBN 978-0-664-25180-2.
  2. ^ a b c Trinity College, "Trinity College Bulletin, May 1953" (1953), Trinity College Bulletins and Catalogues (1824-present), Vol. L, New Series No. 4. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bainbridge, John L. (1 June 1943). "Guild Honors Noble at its Annual Dinner" (PDF). The Diapason. 34 (403): 1.
  4. ^ a b c d "Tertius Noble | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  5. ^ Dibble, Jeremy (2002). Charles Villiers Stanford: Man and Musician. Oxford University Press. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-19-816383-1.
  6. ^ "Record of the Year 1947 in the Organ World in Review" (PDF). The Diapason. 39 (2): 6. January 1, 1948.
  7. ^ "Promenade Concerts: New Works by T. Noble and Martinu". The Times. 18 August 1945. p. 6.
  8. ^ "Index of Composers, Sources, Arrangers". The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. 1940. p. 813.
  9. ^ "Dr T. Tertius Noble". American Organist, 27. 1944.
  10. ^ "Honor Lowell Mason with Three Services" (PDF). The Diapason. 33 (3): 1. 1 February 1942.
  11. ^ Wilson, John S. (4 April 1978). "Ray Noble, 71, Dies; Popular Composer". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by Organist and Master of the Choristers of Ely Cathedral
1892 – 1898
Succeeded by
Hugh Allen
Preceded by Organist and Director of Music, York Minster
1897 – 1913
Succeeded by
Preceded by Organist & Choirmaster,
Saint Thomas Church, New York

Succeeded by