Samuel S Wesley 1810-1876
Samuel S Wesley

The tune Aurelia was written by Samuel S. Wesley in 1864 and suits the meter of many hymns.

Music score

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Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Charles Wesley

Dr Samuel Sebastian Wesley was born 14 August 1810 in London. His grandfather was the famous Charles Wesley.

One of eighteen children, Charles lived to his 80th birthday. After studying at Oxford he became a minister, college tutor and in 1729 started the Methodist Church with his older brother John. In 1735 he sailed over to the American colony for a short time and became secretary to the Governor of Georgia.

In 1738, back in jolly old England as a travelling preacher, he married, started a family and began writing hymns. He wrote continuously until he died (dictating the last lines of a poem on his deathbed), and is reputed to have written around 6,000 hymns, which equates to a new one every three days.

Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Samuel Wesley

One of his sons, Samuel, also became a minister, but to the Anglican Church.

Samuel's son, Samuel Sebastian Wesley, had therefore a very strong musical and religious background. It was not surprising that he became a choirboy at St. Paul's Cathedral and the Chapel Royal. He started playing the organ for services in 1826 and soon began composing his own music.

Some people felt he was a rather abrasive person, but nevertheless he was an achiever in other fields. He graduated from Oxford University in 1837 with a doctorate in music. Samuel was a well-known player of the organ, frequently conducted small orchestras at theatres, and also conducted the Three Choirs Festival on five occasions. He played at Hereford Cathedral (where he eloped with the Dean's daughter Mary Ann Merryweather), Exeter Cathedral, Leeds parish church, Winchester, and Gloucester Cathedral. He became one of the most influential figures in Victorian English Cathedral music. When he was 40, he began teaching music at the Royal Academy and died on 19 April 1876.

But his music lives on and the simple melody of Aurelia suits the meter of many hymns, including:

  • Another Year Is Dawning (Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874)
  • From Greenland's Icy Mountains (Reginald Heber, 1819)
  • God is My Strong Salvation (James Montgomery, 1822
  • I Lay My Sins on Jesus (Horatius Bonar, 1843)
  • Love Divine And Golden (John S. B. Monsell, 1857)
  • O Jesus I Have Promised (John E. Bode, 1868)
  • Rejoice, God's pilgrim people (Marnie Barrell, 1997)
  • The Church's One Foundation (Samuel Stone, 1866)

Aurelia, by Samuel S. Wesley
(Click on the music for a full score)

Aurelia has not been restricted to Western cultures. Here's the Japanese version and the Korean version.

Listen to the melody

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