'If this is Scott's swan song with the St Paul's Choir, it is a brilliant one. The choral tone and discipline are outstanding … The Hyperion engineers demonstrate that they know how to record a choir in a highly reverberant setting. The tone is always clear but sumptuous, giving the listener a feel for the immense space involved yet never obscuring the musical textures. The audible reverberation at the pauses in Parry's Lord, let me know mine end is nothing short of breathtaking' (American Record Guide)
'The performances are excellent, as are William McVicker's booklet-notes, and the great echo's presence is felt as friend, not foe' (Gramophone)
'Each piece in this collection—those considered first-rate, those considered perhaps less than first-rate, and those perhaps scarcely considered at all—is given added quality through the pedigree of the performers and the performances; thus many find a stature which would surprise the cynic. If this CD enables some standard works to receive reference performances, and some lesser works to receive a fresh popularity, then it will have done more than most such collections. Warmly recommended' (Organist's Review)
No 6: Lord, let me know mine end [10'22]
John Scott’s last recording with St Paul’s—he took up his appointment as Organist and Director of Music at St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, in the autumn of 2004—brings us the eighth (but not necessarily final …) volume in the choir’s critically acclaimed English Anthems series.
Throughout the project, the ‘bread-and-butter’ Victoriana of the rich Anglican repertory has been complemented by inspirational discoveries and commissions. This new disc presents anthems by Wesley, Bairstow, Stanford, Stainer, Goss and Parry alongside the sixteenth-century masterpiece Libera nos by John Sheppard (once thought to have been sacked by Magdalen College Oxford for stealing rival choirs’ choristers and hauling them back to the city in chains—the story turns out to concern a similarly named colleague) and new works by John Rutter, the Cathedral’s former organist Christopher Dearnley and John Scott himself.
Also included is the startlingly original—immediately appealing—and prize-winning Praise by Dobrinka Tabakova, a work premiered at St Paul’s as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) was the illegitimate son of Samuel Wesley (1766–1837) and his housekeeper, Sarah Suter. Samuel Wesley had initially set up home with Charlotte Louisa Martin, of whom his family thoroughly disapproved. They married secretly when it was discovered that she was expecting their first child. The relationship was a disaster and Samuel began an affair with Suter. She bore him several children and their romance out of wedlock continued probably because of Samuel’s addiction to the opinions of Martin Madan (minister of the non-conformist Lock Chapel and Samuel’s godfather), who held unorthodox views on marriage. Madan argued that the basis of marriage was not the legal ceremony but in the act of sexual intercourse. Needless to say, these views did not concord with those espoused by Methodism at the hands of Samuel’s father, Charles Wesley.
Samuel Sebastian was named after his father and his father’s love of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Despite the stigma attached to being illegitimate – a very considerable burden at the turn of the nineteenth century – Samuel Sebastian Wesley was to become the most important English church composer between Purcell and Stanford. He was chorister at the Chapel Royal under William Hawes, and held a variety of appointments as an organist, including Leeds Parish Church and Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford and Winchester cathedrals.
Trends in anthem-writing at the end of the eighteenth century had shown a tendency to deteriorating taste; many anthems were multi-sectional, intent on showing off the merits of individual singers. S S Wesley composed using the multi-sectional formats he had inherited, although individual sections show a greater measure of structural integrity and compositional development. The anthem Praise the Lord, my soul dates from 1861, when the composer was organist at Winchester College and Cathedral. It was written for the opening of the organ in Holy Trinity Church in that city. Presumably the startlingly sudden appearance of rapid passagework in the treble solo ‘My voice shalt thou hear betimes, O Lord’ was designed to show off both organ and organist. Kenneth Long has commented that his musical themes often have ‘a characteristic springing vigour with a feeling of grandeur and nobility about them’. This is particularly true of the opening of this anthem, while the final section – ‘Lead me, Lord’ – is surely one of the most simple and beautiful moments in all church music.
Dr Stanley Vann (b1910) is acknowledged as a respected choral trainer and, since his retirement as Master of the Music at Peterborough Cathedral, he has pursued his interest in composition. His Billingshurst Mass was first performed in Chichester Cathedral in November 2000 to much acclaim. Vann was assistant organist at Leicester Cathedral and chorus master for Sir Henry Wood at the Leicester Philharmonic, later becoming organist at Gainsborough Parish Church and, in 1939, organist at Holy Trinity Leamington Spa. During the war years he worked in the Rover car factory in Coventry, where he was able to exercise his architectural ability learned from his father (a builder in the firm of Vann & Bennett in Leicester), before serving with the Royal Artillery between 1942 and 1947. After studies with Sir George Oldroyd and Sir Edward Bairstow, Vann became organist at Chelmsford Cathedral in 1949, moving to Peterborough Cathedral in 1953 where he remained until his retirement. His reputation as a choir trainer was such that Dr Barry Rose was able to write that the best choirs were ‘King’s with Willcocks, Peterborough with Vann and Hampstead with Sidwell’, which, coming from another highly distinguished choirmaster, was praise indeed.
Simon Lindley, a former President of the Royal College of Organists, noted that ‘the re-kindling of interest in the music of other “high Victorian” composers owes much to the advocacy of leading choir directors in the half century following the Second World War … Dr George Guest and Dr Bernard Rose, were among those who led the way in the rehabilitation of the best Victorian music. Their recordings, together with those of Dr Stanley Vann and Dr Barry Rose, provided special opportunities for revisiting the best music of the Victorian period in stylish, idiomatic, committed and – perhaps above all – unashamedly wholehearted performances.’
The anthem Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is was written for the enthronement of the Fourth Bishop of Chelmsford in 1951. It is elegantly scored for treble solo (here shared between four soloists) and chorus. There is a tremendous variety in the choral writing and the thirty-four bars explore a wide range of textures.
Percy Whitlock (1903–1946) was assistant organist at Rochester Cathedral between 1921 and 1930 when he moved to become director of music at St Stephen’s, Bournemouth, a post he held for five years. In 1932 he was appointed borough organist at Bournemouth’s Municipal Pavilion, where he played regularly until his death. His name shone brightly as a performer and he earned a considerable reputation as a recitalist and broadcaster. Recent years have seen a renewed interest in his work – notably his substantial Sonata in C minor for solo organ (recorded by John Scott on) and Symphony in G minor for organ and orchestra. The efforts of the Percy Whitlock Trust – of which John Scott is President – in promoting Whitlock’s work, together with Malcolm Riley’s recently published book about the life and work of the composer, have contributed to sustained public interest in his music.
Many of Whitlock’s organ pieces are still regularly to be found in recital programmes today – principally because the music is tuneful and well crafted, exploring the resources of the organ of the inter-war years to full effect. The tendency to conservatism in his harmonic idiom has been frowned upon, but in an era when various strands in contemporary composition have welcomed a ‘revisionist romanticism’ his music seems more congruous with the musical world than it did in the years immediately after his death.
Glorious in Heaven is a motet for use on saints’ days; it was written in August 1925 and was published two years later by Oxford University Press. It was first performed on 20 September 1925 at St Mary’s Church, Chatham, and is dedicated to the choir there. Scored for five-part chorus, it is composed in an unfussy melodic style, with plenty of variation in texture and interaction between the parts which serve to engage the listener’s attention.
Christopher Dearnley (1930–2000) was educated at Worcester College, Oxford, before becoming assistant organist at Salisbury Cathedral in 1954. In 1957 he was promoted to become organist there, moving to take up the post of organist and director of music at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1968. He retired in 1990 on his sixtieth birthday and emigrated to Australia, where he found himself in great demand. He worked on a locum basis at a number of cathedrals and churches there and he and his wife became Australian citizens in 1993. He was acting director of music at Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney (1990–91), organist locum tenens at St David’s Cathedral, Hobart (1991), director of music at Trinity College to the University of Melbourne (1992–3), and Master of Music at St George’s Cathedral, Perth (from 1993). His obituary in The Times recorded that in his later years ‘he was living in a one-room wooden hut just outside Sydney, pursuing his interest in naturism and generally enjoying a more unfettered style of life than had been possible in Britain’.
Whilst at St Paul’s he revived the Victorian tradition of singing the orchestral masses of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert during the month of July and helped to raise the profile of the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy – an annual service held in May – for which many distinguished composers, including Sir Edward Elgar, had formerly been invited to contribute new works. Dearnley was committed to commissioning new music, and in the cathedral’s music lists he included anthems and services by Britten, Bush, Naylor, Tippett and his former teacher Edmund Rubbra. In 1987 he was awarded a Lambeth degree by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his services to church music and appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.
The Jubilate Deo recorded here was written as a companion piece to the ‘Yoruba’ Te Deum and was composed on Australia Day in Kiata in 1993 for Dr Evan Burge and the Chapel Choir of Trinity College.
John Sheppard (c1515–1558) is thought to have been a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral in or around 1530, although information supporting this theory has proved difficult to come by. By Michaelmas 1543 he is known to have been Informator Choristarum (director of music) at Magdalen College Oxford, where he is reputed to have blotted his copybook through various misdeeds. On further investigation, this mistaken allegation has arisen from a misreading of the college’s records: it was Richard Sheppar (and not Sheppard) who was the culprit. Sheppard later appears in the records of the Chapel Royal (from 1547).
Sadly, much of Sheppard’s music has been lost. His compositions survive in partbooks at Christ Church Oxford, and testify to the elaborate style of church music from the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–1558). These were turbulent times: after Henry VIII’s death, the ten-year-old Edward VI became King. During his reign the first Prayer Books were issued by Archbishop Cranmer in 1549 and 1553. Edward bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey who was proclaimed Queen, but was arrested and executed at the Tower. Mary was a Catholic, acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope, and had Cranmer burnt at the stake, replacing him with a Catholic Archbishop. Her persecution of Protestants earned her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’. For church musicians this must have been a traumatic time – they had to hedge their bets as to whether to compose in Latin or the vernacular. Latin music might have become passé with alarming suddenness.
This setting of Libera nos may have been written when Sheppard was at Magdalen College. Bishop Waynflete’s statutes for the college ordained that the President, Fellows and Scholars should say the Trinity antiphon (and other texts) twice each day – on waking and going to bed. The plainsong is sung – or intoned – at the outset and continues in the bass part in long, sustained notes; over the top of this the composer adds a further six parts which imitate each other as the music progresses. A striking feature in music of this period is that of ‘false relations’ – when a note and its semitone neighbour clash in a closely adjacent occurrence (in Sheppard’s case the clash is sometimes simultaneous), and in which at least one of the notes is foreign to the key or mode in which the music is written. The use of these juxtapositions is partly rooted in tradition and partly as a means of expression. There are several false relations in Libera nos and the combination of this technique and the exquisite, descending melodic contours give the music a sighing quality which leaves the modern listener in awe of its sheer beauty.
Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) is one of the giants of early church music. He sang in the choir of King’s College Cambridge, between 1596 and 1598 at the same time that his brother Edward was Master of the Choristers. He became a student at the University in 1599 and by 1603 was singing in the Chapel Royal during the reign of James I. In 1615 he was an organist there; by 1625 he had become the main organist (his assistant being Thomas Tomkins) and was listed as such at the funeral of James I in the same year. He was also noted as being organist at Westminster Abbey, having succeeded Robert Parsons in 1623.
On 1 May 1625 Charles I married Henrietta Maria by proxy – this had happened in Paris and the King had been in London. Once married, Henrietta set sail for England with four thousand courtiers and servants. Charles, not wishing to appear to meet her on anything less than an equal footing, moved his whole court to Canterbury where they were to meet. This included all the choir, vestments, books and ornaments from the Chapel Royal. Whilst waiting for Henrietta and Charles to arrive back from Dover, Gibbons died of an apoplectic seizure. His death is recorded in the Chapel Royal cheque-book as follows: ‘Mr Orlando Gibbons organist, died the 5th of June, being then Whitsunday at Canterbury, while the King was then to receive Queen Mary, who was then to come out of France and Thomas Warwick was sworn in his place organist the first day of July following’. Gibbons was buried in Canterbury Cathedral the next day. It was rumoured that he had died of the plague – a story denied by the doctors, but which was quite likely, the denial probably being to protect the retinue from desertion in the face of a major state event.
Great Lord of Lords was written by Gibbons in 1617 ‘for the King being in Scotland’. It is a verse anthem in which the five-part chorus alternates with an alto soloist. The final ‘Amen’ is characterized by a scale that ascends through an octave and a tenth and is regularly sung on its own, sometimes at the end of the Collects at Evensong or at the end of the final blessing; it was popularized in this latter context at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. The anthem’s original text was of a personal nature and unsuitable for general church use. The words that are sung here were substituted in the nineteenth century at the request of Sir Frederick Gore Ouseley, founder of St Michael’s College, Tenbury, and curate at St Barnabas Pimlico during the famous anti-ritualistic riots. The new words were written in 1873 by the Reverend H R Bramley, whose most well-known text was set by Charles Wood as the anthem O Thou the Central Orb.
Sir John Goss (1800–1880) has suffered at the hands of the slayers of Victoriana. Like Stainer, he merely responded to the musical demands of his day. Goss became one of the Children of the Chapel Royal in 1811. He was briefly a tenor in the Covent Garden opera chorus, later becoming organist at Stockwell Chapel. He was appointed organist of the then newly built church of St Luke in Chelsea in 1824, succeeding Attwood (of whom he was a pupil) as organist of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1838. Goss was appointed as one of the composers of the Chapel Royal in 1856 following the death of William Knivett; he was knighted in 1872, resigning his position at St Paul’s shortly afterwards. His pupils included Sir Arthur Sullivan, Sir Frederic Cowen and Sir Frederick Bridge.
Goss wrote a musical drama, The Serjeant’s Wife, which ran at the London Lyceum for a hundred nights from 24 July 1827. He took to writing church music in later life. The opening phrase of Goss’s anthem If we believe that Jesus died is quoted on his memorial tablet in the Chapel of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the crypt of St Paul’s. The inscription reads: ‘His genius and skill are shewn in the various compositions with which he has enriched the Music of the Church. His virtues and kindness of heart endeared him to his pupils and friends who have erected this monument in token of their admiration and esteem.’
The motet O pray for the peace of Jerusalem is a semi-chorus from the more substantial Praise the Lord, O my soul which was composed for the bicentenary festival of the Sons of the Clergy, which was held in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1854. Barrett’s comment about Goss’s music is particularly accurate about this motet: ‘[it] is always melodious and beautifully written for the voices, and is remarkable for a union of solidity and grace, with a certain unaffected native charm.’
Sir John Stainer (1840–1901), one of the most significant figures in the musical life of Victorian England, has perhaps been unjustly maligned by many writers. The late Professor Arthur Hutchings wrote: ‘Do not let us underestimate Stainer. We ought to have sent most of his church music to be pulped, and let us waste no time in delaying the pulping. And if Stainer’s goes, then let most choir music by his contemporaries and inferiors precede it. Not much is worth saving before the best of Stanford’s.’ Since the distinguished author wrote those words in 1967 – at a time when serialism and magic squares as compositional techniques seemed a worthwhile aim – the music of the Victorian era has been substantively re-evaluated. Hutchings missed an important point: Stainer was neither better nor worse than the best of musicians in any generation; his music is not the product of an inferior composer but that of a man responding to the musical taste of Victorian England. Sir Arthur Sullivan’s music has had to bear similar verbal lashings. Let us not judge Stainer, then, but rather the musical taste of the Victorians if it does not please our ears today, for the Victorians regarded both Stainer and Sullivan very highly. Dr Peter Charlton, the author of a book on Stainer, has written: ‘Whatever the reactions to his music in his time, he realised that much of it would not last; it was written to serve a need and he made no pretensions to being a great composer.’ Stainer was one of the best organists of his generation and a superb improviser. He helped to raise the standard of cathedral music-making and made St Paul’s Cathedral, where he was appointed organist in 1872, a centre for contemporary church music – commissioning composers to write new works, just as is the case today.
The motet They that wait upon the Lord is extracted from the anthem O clap your hands. The work was written in 1873 and is scored for chorus and semi-chorus with orchestral accompaniment. It was dedicated to Captain Malton and composed for the Annual Festival of the Richmond and Kingston Church Choral Association. As with Stainer’s semi-chorus How beautiful upon the mountains, recorded on Volume 2 of this series of The English Anthem, this short piece passes the strongly melodic opening phrase through each of the voices of the choir (although with varying degrees of completeness in this anthem), creating a finely balanced texture.
After a short spell teaching in Windsor, Sir Edward Bairstow (1874–1946) was in 1893 articled to Sir Frederick Bridge at Westminster Abbey, where he stayed for six years as pupil and amanuensis. He also held an appointment as organist and choirmaster at All Saints’ Church, Norfolk Square, in London, until 1899 when he went to Lancashire to take up the post of organist at Wigan Parish Church. In 1906 he moved to Leeds Parish Church and was appointed organist of York Minster in 1913, a post he held until his death in 1946. He took the Doctorate of Music examinations at the University of Durham in 1902 and became professor of music there in 1929. This did not necessitate a move from York to Durham, for he was only required to give one lecture each year in order to fulfil his commitment.
Bairstow’s music has been recorded on several of the discs in this series of The English Anthem – a testament to the esteem in which his work is still held. Scarcely a month in the life of any choral foundation will go by without Bairstow’s music appearing on the music lists. He seems able to create an atmosphere in his music and to evoke the great spaces of a cathedral by dramatic or intimate musical gestures that reflect the detailed attention he paid to the text he was working on. This contrasts well with the work of Stanford, who frequently produces a straightforward musical structure and a singable tune that one could whistle on the way home. Bairstow, by contrast, is interested in the relationship of the organ part to the choral parts, building great climaxes in the music and contrasting them with simple yet dramatic ideas. The technical construction of the work is subservient to the music which often feels as if it is almost continuously unfolding on a vast canvas. His approach is scholarly and meticulous, showing the influence of Bach and Brahms.
The comparison with Stanford is interesting, because it was the latter who helped church music move away from the ‘full’ and ‘verse’ anthem structures which characterize not only the music of the Georgian composers, but which hung over through much of the nineteenth century and which can be readily identified in the musical structures of, say, Attwood, Goss and S S Wesley. Ouseley and Crotch were both formidable and influential figures in church music of the mid-Victorian period. Ouseley, strongly associated with the Oxford Movement, offered the view that liturgical music should be sober and avoid the frivolity which had characterized the musical efforts of the Georgians – particularly organists who improvised on themes from the latest opera – whilst Crotch expressed the view that S S Wesley’s anthem The Wilderness was effectively degenerate art because it stepped outside the recognized boundaries of what was acceptable ‘church fayre’. Stanford broke away from this mould and, while we do not think of him as an iconoclast, he opened the way for perfection as a miniaturist which is difficult to better. Stanford and Parry both allowed their organ parts to be freed from becoming mere accompaniments and effectively paved the way for Bairstow to unfold his own musical genius in a less inhibited way.
Francis Jackson, in his book Blessed City: the Life and Works of Edward C. Bairstow, notes that the orchestral oboe stop introduced towards the end of Lord, I call upon thee in the organ accompaniment ‘accompanied by Debussyan chords, magically ushers in the words “I will lay me down in peace and take my rest: for it is thou, Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety” conveying exactly the feeling of deep relaxation when the eyes swivel as sleep approaches’. The work dates from 1916 – a time when both Debussy and Ravel were in full creative flow. Bairstow was a follower of contemporary music and is known to have had copies of the music of these composers almost as soon as it was published.
Sir William McKie (1901–1984) was born in Melbourne. He graduated from the Royal College of Music and was organ scholar at Worcester College Oxford, where his name is recorded on the console doors of the Nicholson organ in the College Chapel. His first appointment was as director of music at Clifton College in Bristol between 1926 and 1930 when he returned to Melbourne to become city organist. He returned to England in 1938 to become Informator Choristarum at Magdalen College Oxford, and in 1941 became organist and Master of the Music at Westminster Abbey. McKie stayed at the Abbey until 1963 and during these years directed the music for the royal wedding in 1947 and the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953; he was knighted in the same year. He is buried in the West Cloister at Westminster Abbey. The life of Sir William McKie was celebrated in a book by Howard Hollis entitled The Best of Both Worlds. One story which does not seem to have made the pages of this publication is a public altercation in the 1930s between McKie (as city organist at Melbourne) and Horace Weber (organist of the Capitol Theatre almost opposite the Town Hall). McKie wrote a scathing newspaper article about cinema organs and how they ‘were nothing more than hurdy-gurdy, merry-go-round organs’. Weber was so infuriated that he invited McKie to see for himself that the Mighty Wurlitzer was capable of playing any kind of music and had a greater stylistic range. McKie accepted the challenge. During their musical encounter Weber apparently said: ‘Now my dear friend, I will do something you can’t do’ and played the latest popular hit in every possible tempo, a feat McKie was unable to better. McKie later graciously wrote a public apology for his remarks after hearing the virtuoso Weber play Bach, Widor and Wagner on the organ at the Capitol.
The anthem We wait for thy loving-kindness, O God was written in 1947 for the marriage of HRH The Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in Westminster Abbey. The original instructions for the marriage ceremony were that it was to be a simple service and not a state occasion. The King stipulated the service should not last more than fifty-five minutes. McKie’s response is to be heard in the simplicity of this anthem.
During his lifetime, the Irishman Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) was possibly the most distinguished composer of English church music; his influence upon English musical life was enormous and long-lasting. Like Parry, he taught many students who were later to become significant composers and disseminated a Teutonic idiom which was gleaned from his studies in Leipzig and Kiel in the mid 1870s. Having been appointed professor of music in 1883 at the new Royal College of Music, Stanford was elected professor of music at Cambridge University in 1887.
Stanford was, like many composers of his generation, gifted in writing musical miniatures. Victorian England had a huge appetite for ‘drawing-room music’ and so there was much demand for composers to publish material for that market. Stanford was also at ease with the larger forms; his works include nine operas, seven symphonies, ten concertos, six Irish rhapsodies, four masses, twenty-two secular cantatas, eight string quartets, six organ sonatas, and so on. His experience with these larger musical structures evidently taught him terseness in his smaller works. His choral music has survived when much of the work of his contemporaries has not. The renewed interest in him as a composer should allow his works to survive as one of the highest achievements in Victorian and Edwardian music.
Stanford was an important composer in the publisher Stainer & Bell’s music catalogue. In 1910 the company was short of debenture capital. The popularity of Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet, Op 117, helped the publisher through a difficult patch and his Easter anthem Ye choirs of new Jerusalem, Op 123, helped to secure their financial position. Written in December 1910 and published the following year, this anthem has remained popular with choirs ever since.
Sir C Hubert H Parry (1848–1918) was one of the most important figures in late nineteenth-century English music. Parry’s role as a teacher and a writer was crucial; both he and Stanford were able to revitalize English music at a time when standards were low. Parry obtained his Batchelor of Music degree whilst still at Eton, and, before he went up to Exeter College Oxford, one of his morning services had already been sung at Magdalen College. He earned fame at school as a baritone and spent much of his time at Oxford playing sport. He had time to found the Oxford University Musical Club with C Harford Lloyd and studied privately with Sterndale Bennett and G A Macfarren. He also sampled the flavour of Continental music, studying with the Englishman Henry Hugo Pierson in Stuttgart. After Oxford he worked for Lloyd’s Shipping, but continued his musical studies with Dannreuther, who brought his work to the fore in 1880 when he played his Piano Concerto at the Crystal Palace.
Parry was appointed to the staff of the Royal College of Music in 1883 when it opened, succeeding Grove as its director the following year. In 1900 he succeeded Stainer as professor of music at Oxford. Parry made many contributions to musical literature as a scholar (especially in his later years), including his important work on Bach. Although Parry played the organ as a youth and wrote some important pieces for the instrument, the life of the cathedral musician never attracted him. He composed much church music which was quickly absorbed into the repertoires of the choral foundations.
The motet for double choir Lord, let me know mine end is the last in the set of six pieces that form the Songs of Farewell. These motets were written between 1916 and 1918, towards the end of Parry’s life, and are among his most deeply felt works. The first five anthems in this collection are settings of words by the metaphysical poets, whereas the last sets a biblical text and contains ‘passages of rare beauty and imaginative insight’. It is fitting that this work should be chosen to represent the music of Parry; the final words are ‘before I go hence, and be no more seen’ and the composer is buried in the crypt of St Paul’s.
Hubert Stanley Middleton was born in Windsor on 11 May 1890 and died on 13 August 1959. He was educated at the Imperial Services College, Windsor, where he caught the eye of Sir Walter Parratt, who gave him organ lessons. Thence he went up to Peterhouse in Cambridge, where he studied for the history tripos. He was elected an external fellow of his college and was for some time organist at Truro Cathedral. From 1926 to 1931 he was organist and choirmaster at Ely Cathedral. In the latter year he was appointed organist and director of studies in music at Trinity College, finally being appointed a fellow in 1946. Middleton also held a post as a lecturer in music at Cambridge University. In this role he spent the wartime years working towards a syllabus for the music tripos which was established in 1945. Hubert Middleton was elected a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 1928 and between 1945 and 1946 worked for the British Educational Section in Berlin.
His motet Let my prayer be set forth is written for double choir and was published by Dean & Sons in 1928. It is a setting of words from Psalm 141 and is unusual in that the two sides of the choir – cantoris and decani – are scored in four-part canon. That is to say that the second chorus imitates exactly what the first has sung at a distance of one bar – a compositional technique which is embraced to great effect. The music fades away to a single note – a unison E – just as it began.
Dobrinka Tabakova (b1980) studied music at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department and graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Born in Bulgaria, her music has been broadcast and performed in her native country as well as in other European countries. Her orchestral work Thrace was performed at the Barbican in London, and Insight and On a bench in the shade were both premiered at the Cheltenham International Music Festival. The 2003 Moscow festival ‘Homecoming’ featured a performance of Dancing on Cobbled Streets. Commissions include the chamber operas The Custard Tart Opera and Midsummer Magic, and a viola concerto The Song of the Enchanting Viola. Tabakova won the Lutoslawski Composition Prize in 1999, the Jean-Frédéric Perrenoud Prize, and a medal at the fourth Vienna International Music Competition.
Tabakova’s anthem Praise, scored for eight-part choir and organ, was the winner of the 2002 Barclays Private Banking Composition Prize and received its premiere in St Paul’s Cathedral at the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir School Foundation Concert, which was part of HM The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. The composer says of her work: ‘The idea of writing a church anthem has fascinated me for quite a long time – I have always felt that choral music is one of the purest forms of musical expression. The fact that the anthem would have its first performance in St Paul’s Cathedral added to my enthusiasm. The piece aims to intrigue the ear by concealing the organ with muted choral clusters at the outset, giving ambiguity as to the sound source. Mostly, though, I found inspiration in the set text and the story that underlies it – that of a man who has overcome adversity and has become aware of the glory of our Lord and is full of praise for Him.’
John Scott (b1956) began his musical career as a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral. While still at school he gained the diplomas of the Royal College of Organists, winning the major prizes. He was organ scholar of St John’s College Cambridge, acting as assistant to Dr George Guest, and during this time, continued his studies with Gillian Weir. On leaving Cambridge he became assistant organist at both St Paul’s and Southwark cathedrals, later becoming sub-organist of St Paul’s, and in 1990 succeeded Christopher Dearnley as organist and director of music. Under his direction, the St Paul’s Choir toured three continents, made many recordings and performed with most of the London orchestras.
As an organist, John Scott has performed in five continents, premiered many new works written for him, and worked with various specialist ensembles. He is a first-prize winner from the Manchester International Organ Competition (1978) and the Leipzig J S Bach Competition (1984). In 1998 he was nominated International Performer of the Year by the American Guild of Organists, and he is a past president of the Incorporated Association of Organists. In the summer of 2004 he was translated to the post of organist and director of music at St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York, but not before he had given concerts in Switzerland, the USA, South Africa, Holland, Notre Dame in Paris, Passau Dom in Germany, the Hereford Three Choirs Festival, and Birmingham’s Symphony Hall; he participated in the Gala Concert to celebrate the Royal Festival Hall organ’s fiftieth birthday and in the triumphant opening of the restored and rebuilt organ at the Royal Albert Hall. He also gave two memorable recitals at St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, and conducted an outstanding performance of Verdi’s Requiem. John Scott was appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) in the 2004 New Year’s Honours List.
Of the anthem Behold, O God our defender, the composer writes: ‘I was invited to compose an anthem for the Golden Jubilee Service of HM The Queen held in St Paul’s on 4 June 2002. In a service characterized by pageantry, rejoicing and high celebration, the opportunity was taken to contribute something of a more gentle and reflective nature. As a devotee of the music of Herbert Howells, I was drawn to set these beautiful words from Psalm 84, which shamelessly evokes Howells’s choral palette. Howells set these words for the Coronation Service in 1953, and I’ve always felt his little masterpiece has been unduly neglected. My Royal tribute also ends in homage to Howells; the final tenor phrase, with its Lydian inflection, draws directly on Howells’s setting.’
John Rutter was born in London in 1945. After music studies at Clare College Cambridge, he taught at the University of Southampton before returning to Cambridge as director of music at Clare College in 1975. Since 1979 he has devoted his time to composition and professional conducting work with The Cambridge Singers. Rutter is a master of adapting his compositional style and technique to the musical demands of the group for which he is writing. He has become one of the most successful composers in recent years, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It has been said that his idiom grows out of the English choral tradition, as exemplified by Holst, Vaughan Williams, Howells, Britten and Tippett, spiced with the harmonic and melodic language of Fauré and Duruflé. But such an analysis does disservice to the sheer adaptability of his style, his skill as a tunesmith and his seemingly innate ability to perceive both the nature of the occasion for which a piece is to be written and the musical skills of the performers for whom he is writing. This combination makes Rutter a highly successful modern-day composer of Gebrauchsmusik – music for events, or ‘music for use’.
The anthem A crown of glory attests to all that has been said above; it is at once vigorous and majestic, contrasting well with his Hymn to the Creator of Light recorded on. A crown of glory was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of London for the 62nd Annual United Service of the Guilds of the City of London held at St Paul’s Cathedral on 26 March 2004.
William McVicker © 2005
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