Joseph Gautrot, Josephine Hymn

For soprano and organ, 1844. “Teach Me Dearest Lord to Pray”.
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA027
ISBN 978-0-9925672-6-2 / ISMN 979-0-9009642-6-7

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MDA027 Gautrot Josephine Hymn_0010    MDA027 pic3

Joseph Gautrot is a fascinating and yet enigmatic figure. According to sources he led an adventurous life, and spent time in out of the way colonial outposts. He composed music seemingly of substance, and for ensembles normally associated with higher class music, yet despite this, we have only one work surviving by this active musician and prolific composer.

The birth date of Joseph Gautrot is unknown, but there are various mentions of his early life and career in an obituary in Bell’s Life of 4 February 1854. In the obituary he was cited as being a member of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, probably as a musician, and was present during the Russian Campaign of 1812. A violinist of some distinction, Gautrot married a soprano who was an accomplished singer. We do not know her Christian name, but she made many appearances in concerts with her husband.

The Minard Company and the Gautrot couple came to Sydney in 1839 and began a season of performances on 15 March. From that time onwards Gautrot travelled between Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne, and there are numerous references to compositions by the composer from 1839 to the year of his death in 1854. He died in Sydney on 30 January, aged 70 or 71. We know that Gautrot composed the Josephine Hymn for his wife to sing, and although it is naive in parts it is charming and spiritually honest.

MDA027 pic2The text is of historical interest because it is written by the pioneer Roman Catholic priest, Father John Joseph Therry (1790 –1864). Therry played a crucial role in the development of the Roman Catholic Church in the early Australian Colonies. After further postings he eventually returned to Sydney and died there in 1864, being buried in St Mary’s Cathedral, where the Lady Chapel is dedicated to him.

MDA027 pic1The Josephine Hymn is respectfully inscribed to The Most Reverend Count Polding, Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of Australasia. An English Benedictine, John Bede Polding (Liverpool 1794-Sydney 1877) arrived in Sydney as the first Catholic Bishop. He was a friend and supporter of Fr Therry and hence the direct and honest dedication to his religious superior and colleague.