Born: July 5, 1867 Died: May 4, 1953
Organist and composer Thomas Tertius Noble, frequently identified as T.T. Noble or T. Tertius Noble, is better known today as a composer, although in his time he achieved greater eminence as a performing artist. Trained first as a church musician, his ability took him beyond the sanctuary and into the concert hall, even though he continued to be devoted to composition for the church and to performances therein. After lessons from his sister beginning at age seven, Noble made his first public appearance at 11, performing as a piano soloist. During the time of study at home, he also heard the organ playing of James Pyne at Bath Abbey, often sharing the bench with the organist and observing first hand matters of technique and registration. In 1880, Noble was mentored by a minor cleric at Gloucester Cathedral before being appointed organist at All Saints' Church in Colchester, where the rector assumed responsibility for his general education. After several years at Colchester, Noble won a scholarship that enabled him to enter the Royal College of Music. There, he studied with the famous organist Walter Parratt, composer Charles Villiers Stanford, and organist/composer Frederick Bridge. Noble was sufficiently gifted to be invited to become a staff member upon graduation. Leaving Colchester in 1889, he accepted the position of organist at St. John's Church in London, a year later becoming assistant organist to Stanford at Trinity College in Cambridge. When he left Trinity in 1892, he became organist at Ely Cathedral, shortly thereafter marrying Muriel Maud Stubbs, daughter of the dean. In 1898, Noble left Ely to become organist at York Minster, a post he held for 14 years. There, he established the York Symphony Orchestra during the first year of his residency and in 1910, revived the York Festival, an institution that successfully continued two decades beyond his departure. For these events, Noble composed new works and induced such celebrated figures as Sir Granville Bantock and Sir Edward Elgar to conduct their own compositions. When Noble moved next, it was to travel to America where he took up the post of organist at St. Thomas' Church in New York, a position he would hold for 35 years. As organist, he was given wide latitude to develop a new liturgical tradition. He oversaw the design and installation of a new organ and, in 1918, established a choir school created to train choristers to the highest possible standards. Noble's 50th anniversary as an organist was celebrated during the service of March 15, 1931. During all segments of his long career, Noble was active in concert performance. In addition to the English churches and cathedrals he had directly served, Noble had appeared at such other sanctuaries and halls as Westminster Abbey, the Crystal Palace, Albert and Exeter halls, and cathedrals at Manchester, Durham, Chester, and Bristol in recitals numbering more than 1,000. In America, the tradition continued during tours of the United States and Canada. Critics bestowed high praise for Noble's magisterial artistry, his knowing use of stops, his sure touch, his range of dynamics, his delicacy, and his power. Among Noble's compositions are anthems for organ and chorus, kyries, communion and offertory services, chorale preludes, orchestral pieces, and works for chamber ensemble.