He sang as a boy in the choir of Saint Paul's Cathedral and was Michael 's College, Tenbury committed at the age of 16 years by Sir Frederick Ouseley as organist at the newly founded St. In 1860 he became organist at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1872, he moved to Saint Paul's Cathedral. His work as choir trainer and organist set standards for Anglican church music, whose influence is felt to this day. Stainer has also worked as a teacher, in 1889 he was appointed professor of music at Oxford University and undertook pioneering research in the field of early music.
As a composer, he has produced an extensive work of sacred music, of which his passion cantata The Crucifixion is one of the best known. From his pen also comes numerous, still sung Anglican hymns.
The Crucifixion has long been one of several cantatas for Passion, which were performed during the Holy Week in English churches. Stainer also succeeded to this day a lasting contribution to the traditional English Christmas music by HR Bramley, together with the collection of Christmas Carols New and Old (1871 ) published, which was a decisive impetus to the revival of the singing of Christmas carols.