Before the advent of Sir Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams, England had become known as 'the land without music'. The country had never developed the strong patronage system of the nobility of the Continent who supported the great composers like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and a score of others. However this appraisal overlooked the immense contribution of the large number of skilled musicians and composers who gave their lives in the service of the English Church from the Reformation onwards. Names like Byrd, Tallis and Farrant, Orlando Gibbons, Weelkes, Tomkins and Purcell, Maurice Greene and William Boyce and, in the nineteenth century, S.S. Wesley, Stainer and Stanford, testify to the quality of the English cathedral tradition, which was not easily exported to the Continent of Europe where, over the years, the cathedrals became silent. Their twentieth-century successors have continued to expand this uniquely English tradition of excellence and have taken advantage of radio, television and recorded music to extend the heritage around the world. At the same time the cathedral choirs have produced a new quality of choral music, perhaps never before heard.
It was into this tradition that John Sanders entered, devoting his life to the Opus Dei of cathedral worship and also contributing to the considerable reservoir of sacred music with a series of compositions which have already become a regular part of the repertoire of cathedrals around the world. Part of the inspiration for this book came from hearing the choir of Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand, rehearsing his Te Deum. Like many cathedral organists, John spent most of his working life in one cathedral, working to maintain the highest possible standards of excellence in the worship, the training of choristers and the general standards of life in the Close. This is the story of a life of devotion, total commitment to the Church, the music, his family and his many friends. It is a tribute to a richly intelligent man with a striking sense of humour and a genuine love of people.