Arthur Sullivan is best known as W. S. Gilbert's collaborator in the Savoy Operas, However, Sullivan was far from being simply a composer of light operettas. At the height of his fame and popularity in late Victorian Britain, Sullivan was regarded as the nation's leading composer of sacred oratorios on a par with Mendelssohn and Brahms. Yet despite his contemporary popularity and enduring legacy, little attention has been given to Sullivan's sacred work. The last twenty years have seen a considerable revival of interest in and critical appreciation for this aspect of Sullivan's work. Lost Chords and Christian Soldiers provides the first detailed, comprehensive, critical study and review of Sullivan's church and sacred music. As well as exploring issues of repertoire and ecclesiology involved in these and other formative influences and experiences, consideration will be given to how far Sullivan's own personal beliefs and faith influenced his settings of sacred texts and the extent to which his own spiritual and theological leaning are expressed in his choice of material and style of setting.
Sullivan's motivation in setting religious texts will be probed and comparison will be made with the motivation, output and approach of his closest contemporaries in this field, most notably Stainer.