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Watts, Isaac (17th July 1674-25th November 1748)

He was a hymn and spiritual writer, author and clergyman born the eldest of eight children in Southampton, England, whose father was a twice-imprisoned religious Nonconformist.  He studied the classical languages, i.e. Hebrew, Latin and Greek, at the King Edward VI School in Southampton, which now has a house named in his honour, and then a Dissenting Academy in Stoke Newington, London, where he would also join an Independent congregation in 1693.

After leaving education when he was 20 he returned to Southampton and over a period of two years wrote many of the works that would be sung in the Southampton Chapel and eventually appear in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs of 1707-1709.

He became a tutor in Stoke Newington, employed by John Hartopp, who was an acclaimed Puritan, and he would spend the next six years teaching his son and in personal study, moulding his own philosophies and theological views.

Becoming a preacher he gave his first sermon when he was 24 and by the time he was 28, in 1702, he was ordained a pastor of an Independent Chapel in Stoke Newington.

Ill health began to plague him and after suffering a debilitating fever in 1712 he was invited to stay with Sir Thomas Abney and his wife at their home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.

The University of Edinburgh awarded him a degree as Doctor of Divinity in 1728 and he would return to Stoke Newington with the widow and daughter of Sir Thomas Abney around 1735, where he would stay until his death at age 74.

His publications included The Divine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children and The Psalms of David in the Language of the New Testament and of his 750 hymns and spirituals we will see such titles as “Behold What Wondrous Grace”, “Come, Let Us Lift Our Joyful Eyes”, “Great is the Lord Our God”, “Come Ye That Love the Lord” and his ever popular “Joy to the World”.  His poem “Against Idleness and Mischief” was parodied as “How Doth the Little Crocodile” in Alice in Wonderland and his book Logic was used as a text at Yale, Harvard and Oxford for over a century, even though he could not enter into Oxford for his religious beliefs.   Much of his work is contained at Yale University after being presented to it due to its founding by Independents and he is commemorated on 25th November by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in their Calendar of Saints.

Joy to the World recordings (Isaac Watts/Lowell Mason/George Frideric Handel)
Black Dyke Mills Band
Chandos 4541 (CD: A Christmas Fantasy)

Boston Pops
Philips 416 287 – 2 (CD:  We Wish You a Merry Christmas)
Conductor – John Williams

DG 419 414-2 (CD: White Christmas)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

RCA 09026-61685-2 (CD: Pops Christmas Party)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

Sony SK 48232 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – John Williams
Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Kiri te Kanawa recordings
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

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

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

Deborah Henson-Conant
Golden Cage (CD: The Gift)
Harp – Deborah Henson-Conant

Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Naxos 8.990005 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – Richard Hayman

Rochester Pops Orchestra
Koch CHD 1531 (CD: Joy to the World – Carols for Orchestra and Chorus)

St Louis Philharmonic Orchestra
Sonari records – 7 55724 00272 3 (CD: Christmas with the Philharmonic)
Conductor – Robert Hart Baker

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