Robert Ambrose

Robert (Steele) Ambrose. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Chelmsford, Essex, 7 Mar 1824, d Hamilton, Ont 30 Mar 1908.

Ambrose, Robert

Robert (Steele) Ambrose. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Chelmsford, Essex, 7 Mar 1824, d Hamilton, Ont 30 Mar 1908. When the family moved to Hamilton from Guelph in 1845 he remained behind to work the farm, but in 1847 he joined his brother, Charles Jr, who was a music teacher in Kingston, and became organist-choirmaster at St George's Church there. He was organist-choirmaster 1863-83 at the Church of the Ascension in Hamilton and also taught 1864-89 at the Wesleyan Female College (later Wesleyan Ladies College, still later Hamilton Ladies College). He was president in 1891 of the Canadian Society of Musicians. During this period he composed extensively. Among his approximately 80 songs, 14 partsongs, and 25 instrumental pieces were Claridine (T.W. White 1872) for piano; 'Abide with Me' (Suckling 1882) for voice and piano; 'May God Preserve Thee, Canada' (Suckling 1886), written for chorus though recorded many years later (Columbia R4034) by the tenor Charles Harrison; and 'The Contrite Heart' (Suckling 1881), an anthem. Nordheimer issued a series of songs and partsongs, including at least seven for accompanied solo voice and three for quartet. Ambrose's most famous composition, the sacred song 'One Sweetly Solemn Thought' with words by Phoebe Carey, was published by Nordheimer in 1876, and has been included in numerous song collections, including CMH vol 3. This volume also contains his song 'Under the Snow.' 'One Sweetly Solemn Thought' was also adapted as a hymn tune (see CMH vol 5). It was recorded many times by a variety of performers: as a vocal solo by Ernestine Schumann-Heink, as a duet by Alma Gluck and Louise Homer, as a harp solo, an organ solo, and a trombone solo, and on at least five piano rolls. (See Roll Back the Years.)

See also Charles Ambrose (his father) and Paul Ambrose (his son).