Print Shortlink

Brooks, Phillips (13th December 1835-23rd January 1893)

He was an Episcopalian clergyman and author born in Boston, Massachusetts as one of six sons, four of whom would be clergymen ordained in the Episcopal Church.  He was a descendent of the 16th century Puritan minister Rev. John Cotton and he was the great-grandson of Samuel Phillips Jr. who founded the Phillip Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

He studied at the Boston Latin School and Harvard University, where he was a member of the A.D. Club, and after teaching at the Boston Latin School for a year after graduation, he entered the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1856.  After three years study he was ordained and was given the post of rector of Philadelphia’s Church of the Advent.  A year later he was ordained a priest and joined the Church of the Holy Trinity where he stayed as rector from 1862 to 1869.

Throughout the American Civil War years he opposed slavery and supported giving them the right to vote, was an upholder of the cause of the North and is remembered for the moving sermon he gave after Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.

At the end of the war in 1865 he took a trip to Bethlehem which was a huge inspiration to him, and three years later he would write a poem based on this visit which would become the extremely popular Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” after the organist of the church, Lewis Henry Redner, added music to it.  A lesser known carol of his and Lewis Redner’s is “Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight”, which is still performed and has been recorded.

In 1869 he once again moved, this time to the Trinity Church in Boston and here he would remain for the rest of his working life, being instrumental in the design of the Trinity Church building that was erected in 1872, and refusing other eminent posts in order to stay there.  He did, however, also act as a preacher and overseer of Harvard University for a long period throughout these years.

In 1891 he was recognised for his contribution to the church by being elected and consecrated the sixth Bishop of Massachusetts.  Alongside his preaching he was also a recognised theological author with his publications including Bohlen Lectures on The Influences of Jesus and Sermons Preached in English Churches.

He died in Boston unexpectedly in 1893 when he was 57 years old, with his loss being nationally mourned, and there is now an Episcopalian feast day on 23rd January in his honour.  Hailed as one of the greatest American religious leaders, there is a statue of him located a the Trinity Church, Boston, and recognised in the field of education, there is Phillips Brooks House in Harvard Yard, Phillips Brook School in Menlo Park, California and Brooks School in Andover, Massachusetts.

O Little Town of Bethlehem recordings
Leroy Anderson and His Orchestra
Decca B0003552-02 (CD: A Leroy Anderson Christmas)

BBC Welsh Chorus
Nimbus NI5310 (CD: Celebration: Christmas Fanfares & Carols)
Conductor – John Hugh Thomas
Organ -Huw Tregelles WilliamsBlack Dyke Mills Band

Chicago Symphony Low Brass Ensemble 
VOX 7501 (CD: Christmas with the Symphony Brass of Chicago)
Conductor – Barry Faldner

Choir of St. John’s, Cambridge
London 421 022 (CD: Christmas Weekend -16 Favourite Carols)

Robert De Cormier Singers and Ensemble recordings
Carols Medley – Merry Christmas (Traditional)/Dame Get Up and Bake Your Pies (Traditional English)/Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight (Phillips Brooks/Lewis Henry Redner)
Arabesque 6526 (CD:  The First Nowell)
Arranger/ConductorRobert DeCormier
Organ/Piano – David Ralph

Placido Domingo
A Medley of Christmas Carols
(Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, O Little town of Bethlehem, The First Noel)
FM 37245 (CD: Christmas with Placido Domingo)
Orchestra – Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Conductor -Lee Holdridge

Paul Hill Chorale Recordings
 CRC 2258 (CD: A Paul Hill Chorale Christmas)
Conductor – Paul Hill
Organist – Sondra Proctor
National Capital Brass and Percussion Ensemble

Kiri te Kanawa 
TELDEC 99000 (CD: Christmas with Kiri te Kanawa) 
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Choir of Lichfield Cathedral
The Choir of Coventry Cathedral
Conductor – R. Stapleton
Vocals – Kiri te Kanawa

Kings College Choir, Cambridge 
London 444 848 (CD: Noel – Christmas at Kings)
Conductor – Sir David Willcocks

Robert Shaw Chorale 
RCA 6429 – 2 – RG (CD: A Festival of Carols)
(Arrangers – Robert Shaw/Alice Parker)

Dale Warland Singers + Ensemble 
Gothic 49208 (CD: Christmas with the Dale Warland Singers)
(Sir Henry Walford Davies version)