William Henry Longhurst, a singer and composer, gave 14 years of service to Canterbury Cathedral Choir (1826–1840). His output: an appreciable number of vocal compositions, both sacred and secular, along with a book of ‘Slate Exercises […] A collection of exercises on the value of notes, rests, etc. […] Dedicated to all professors of music for the instruction of their pupils in time’ is no less impressive than that of Thomas Goodban, the celebrated composer and conductor of the Catch Club. This is Longhurst’s only foray into music education. The music was published by various London-based houses, amongst whom the most notable names are Novello and Curwen, but the more important point is that several of the pieces were considered worthy of inclusion in collections by both publishers.
None of the pieces would prompt a re-appraisal of Longhurst’s modest place in the ranks of English composers, but they are pleasant enough, and would serve their purposes well: an addition to the repertoire of canticles and anthems for a provincial cathedral, or teaching pieces for singing pupils such as ‘The Misses Backhouse’ to whom his Mermaid’s Song was dedicated. And for the sake of completeness, it should be noted that the Catch Club was treated to at least one composition which did not make it into print, probably because few would be able to play the piano accompaniment: The Fairies: In the Stilly Night was a ‘Cheerful Glee’ for 4 voices which begins innocuously enough but launches into a virtuosic passage for the accompanist whilst the voices trip around singing ‘We step so lightly, gay and sprightly, from eve till the break of day’.
Other publications in the Canterbury collection testify to the journeys music could make across the nation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Subscription lists are often simply a list of names, but will, not infrequently, give a location. The geographical reach is remarkable. A two-volume set of music by the much-loved John Wall Callcott, edited by his son-in-law, the composer William Horsley, and published in London by Birchall, Lonsdale, and Mills in 1824, is probably the jewel in the Canterbury Collection; the map shows in graphic form how far afield Callcott’s music travelled.