Open main menu


STONE, ALFRED (1840–1878), musician and choir-trainer, born in Bristol 12 Feb. 1840, was educated at the Bristol city school (Queen Elizabeth's Hospital). He displayed an enthusiasm for music in early life, studying under John David Corfe, organist of Bristol Cathedral [see Corfe, Arthur Thomas], and, after a brief experience of commercial life at Messrs. Thomas's Bristol soap works, made music his profession. In 1858, when only eighteen, he became organist of St. Paul's Church, Clifton, and was successively organist of Arley chapel (1862), of Highbury chapel (1863–9), of St. Paul's again (1869–75), of Christ Church, Clifton (1875–8), and by the mayor's appointment of the mayor's chapel (St. Mark, Bristol) (1873–8). He trained his church choirs to a high state of efficiency, notably at St. Paul's.

In 1863 he edited, with Mr. Fred Morgan, the ‘Bristol Tune Book,’ comprising 342 hymn-tunes and chants; a few were written by himself. The book at once gained popular favour, chiefly among nonconformists. In a third edition, edited by H. Eliot Button, the number of tunes reached nine hundred. The sale exceeded three-quarters of a million copies in England and colonies. No hymn-tune book except ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’ has exercised a wider influence on congregational singing. In 1863–4 Stone adopted the tonic sol-fa system for purposes of teaching, although he did not wholly abandon the old notation. His tutorial appointments included that of master of singing at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital, 1867–76, at the Bristol Red Maids School, 1867–78, and at the Blind Asylum, 1876–8. He conducted the Bristol Orpheus Glee Society (founded in 1844) from 1876 till his death, and under his rule the society conspicuously flourished. Stone organised and trained a male-voice choir in 1872 to compete at the national music meetings which were inaugurated that year at the Crystal Palace. He gained the prize (50l.) in that year, and next year obtained honourable mention. In 1873 he organised the first Bristol musical festival. He was secretary, chose and trained the festival choir of three hundred voices, and conducted the preliminary concerts and intermediate Festival Society concerts till his death. The chorus singing won the highest praise from critics, and the choir became a permanent institution. For preparatory singing classes he edited ‘Progressive Exercises for Elementary and Advanced Mixed Choirs,’ which are still in use. He wrote a series of papers, ‘Hints for Elementary Teaching,’ in which he strongly advocated the tonic sol-fa. For a contemplated work on harmony (never completed) he wrote ‘The Common Sense of the Minor Scale,’ which was published in the ‘Tonic Sol-fa Reporter,’ August 1878. He adjudicated at the Welsh Eisteddfodau, and travelled in Germany with Mr. J. S. Curwen for the purposes of his profession. His last public appearance was at a festival concert, when he conducted Roeckel's ‘Ode in Memory of Titiens’ in November 1877. He died at Stoke Bishop, near Bristol, on 3 Jan. 1878, leaving a widow and children. A memorial fund of 2,000l. was raised in behalf of his family. He was a stimulating teacher and conductor, and by his energy improved musical education and taste in the west of England.

[From personal knowledge, also that of his family and friends; biographical notice by W. Critchley in Tonic Sol-fa Reporter, October 1887; Recollections of A. Stone by J. S. Curwen in Western Daily Press, 12 March 1878; notices in musical and Bristol press.]

E. T. W.