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Woodward, George Ratcliffe (27th December 1848-3rd March 1934)

He was an Anglican priest, composer, religious writer and translator of original and ancient verse born in Birkenhead, England who studied at Elstree School in Hertfordshire, England followed by Harrow School.  He went on to graduate with a 3rd class in Classics Tripos from Gonville and Calus College, Cambridge after being awarded a Sayer Scholarship.

The Bishop of London ordained him a deacon to serve as an Assistant Curate at the Church of St. Barnabas in Pimlico, London in 1874 and 6 years later in 1882 he relocated to St. Mary and All Saints church in Little Walsingham, Norfolk.  He later married Alice Dorothy Lee Warner back at the Church of St. Barnabas  in 1889 after she had moved to near Ipswich in Norfolk in 1888.  She died just a few years later in 1893 and he resigned his post and moved back to the Church of St. Barnabas in Pimlico.

His work as a writer and translator,  often from the Renaissance and often working in collaboration with the composer Charles Wood, saw him publishing booklets of his his own verse as well as Carols for Christmas-Tide, Series II in 1893, Hymns and Carols for Christmas-tide in 1897, Legends of the Saints in 1898 and in 1899 he edited the Cowley Carol Book with Charles Wood, which included “Blessed Be That Maid Mary”.

Moving into the 20th century he published The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in 1902, Poemata in 1903, Songs of Syon in 1904 and in 1910 he published his edition of Piaes Cantiones for the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society.

In 1917 he co-wrote The Acathist Hymn of the Holy Orthodox Church in the Original Greek Text and done into English Verse and in 1920 he and Charles Wood published An Italian Carol Book.  Next was Hymns of the Greek Church in 1922 and in 1924 he and Charles Wood published A Cambridge Carol Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter and Other Seasons, which included the carols “Past Three O’ Clock” and “Ding Dong Merrily on High”.  Also in 1924 he was the recipient of an honorary Lambeth doctorate in music.

He died in Highgate, London in 1934 and was buried in Little Walsingham, Norfolk when he was 85 years old.

“Blessed Be That Maid Mary” recordings

Choir of Kings College recordings
London 425-499 (CD – On Christmas Night)
Arranger – Sir David Willcocks

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

Robert DeCormier Singers and Ensemble recordings
 Arabesque Z6525 (CD – A Victorian Christmas’)
Conductor and arranger – Robert DeCormier

Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge recordings
Up! Good Christen Folk (Traditional Finnish/George Ratcliffe Woodward)
London 421 022 (CD: Christmas Weekend -16 Favourite Carols)
ConductorGeorge Guest
OrganStephen Cleobury