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Wesley, Charles (18th December 1707-29th March 1788)

He was a poet, prolific hymn-writer and the first Methodist born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England as the eighteenth of nineteen children.  His father was the rector, poet and author Samuel Wesley, his mother Susanna was dubbed the Mother of Methodism and his borther was the Methodist leader John Wesley.

He studied at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he formed the Oxford Methodist group, which would later be led by his brother, John and joined by George Whitefield, who would later adapt his “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.

He travelled with John to Georgia in the United States and on his return he married Sarah Gwynne, a Welsh squire’s daughter, and together they would continue to travel with his brother throughout Britain.  In 1756, when he was 49, he gave up his travels but would continue his hymn writing.

During his lifetime he wrote the words to over 7,500 hymns of which 5,000 were published, making him the most prolific hymn-writer of the English language, and many of these are still sung today such as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, “O For a Thousand Songs to Sing” and “Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling”.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorate he and his brother John, on the 2nd March each year in their Calendar of Saints and he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

In the entertainment world his hymns can be heard in at least 19 movies and television programmes.  Wesley Day commemorates the spiritual awakening of Charles, followed by his brother John, and is widely celebrated by Methodists and in 2007 there was a tercentenary celebration in the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, which was marked by a flower festival.

Although suffering from illness much of his life, he lived for 80 years until his death at home in London in 1788. Of his eight children only three survived past infancy, two sons and a daughter, and the two sons Samuel and Charles went on to become successful organists and composers in their own right.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing recordings

BBC Welsh Chorus
Arranger – Sir David Willcocks
Conductor – John Hugh Thomas
Organist – Huw Tregelles Williams
Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guards
Musical Director – Lt. Col. P. Hannam, BEM

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

Choir of St. John’s, Cambridge 
London 421 022 (CD: Christmas Weekend -16 Favourite Carols)
Conductor – George Guest
Organ – Stephen Cleobury

Robert DeCormier Singers and Ensemble
Arabesque 6526 (A Victorian Christmas)
Conductor – Robert DeCormier

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
Soprano – Kiri te Kanawa
Baritone – Michael George
Trumpet – Jouko Harjanne

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

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)

Dale Warland Singers and Ensemble
Gothic 49208 (CD: Christmas with the Dale Warland Singers)
Arranger– Carol Barnett