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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
The Herbert Howells Memorial Window, Gloucester Cathedral (1992) by Caroline Swash (b1941)
Photograph by Angelo Hornak, by permission of Gloucester Cathedral
Track(s) taken from CDA67914
Recording details: July 2011
Ely Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: April 2012
Total duration: 9 minutes 1 seconds

Take him, earth, for cherishing
composer
1961; American commission on the assassination of President Kennedy; first performed in Washington on 22 November 1964
author of text
Hymnus circa Exsequias Defuncti
translator of text
Medieval Latin Lyrics, London, 1929

Other recordings available for download
Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)   October 2014 Release
Corydon Singers, Matthew Best (conductor)
St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (conductor), Christopher Dearnley (organ)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In his own sleeve note to the 1967 recording by King’s College Choir of Take him, earth, for cherishing Howells wrote: ‘Within the year following the tragic death of President Kennedy in Texas plans were made for a dual American-Canadian Memorial Service to be held in Washington. I was asked to compose an a cappella work for the commemoration. The text was mine to choose, Biblical or other. Choice was settled when I recalled a poem by Prudentius (AD 348–413). I had already set it in its medieval Latin years earlier, as a study for Hymnus Paradisi. But now I used none of that unpublished setting. Instead I turned to Helen Waddell’s faultless translation […] Here was the perfect text—the Prudentius ‘Hymnus circa exsequias defuncti’.’

So far, so objective, but this cool, elegant account scarcely begins to probe Howells’ long relationship with a text that was intimately bound up with the life and death of his son, Michael. Howells’ setting of the Latin, dating from around 1932, is an incomplete fragment. When, after a period in which he found himself unable to work following Michael’s death in 1935, Howells was moved to compose a work in the boy’s memory, he drew on an existing Requiem for unaccompanied voices in planning what was to become his masterpiece, Hymnus Paradisi. He intended that it should include a setting of Prudentius’ words of mourning and consolation until a very late stage in the process of composition, but in the end they did not find a place in Hymnus. Nevertheless, this text was often in his mind. In May 1958 he wrote in his diary: ‘Rain and Gloom. But the rain turned away with a sheer beauty of light. Prudentius’ ‘Hymnus Circa Exsequias Defuncti’ kept my mind in safe refuge—as once it did in Sept. 1935 for love of Michael.’

Thoughts of his son’s death were never far away and these beautiful words were there waiting to be set. Is it too fanciful to suggest that in responding to the shock that the whole world felt at the assassination of John Kennedy, a young man in whom much hope for the future had been invested, Howells found the motivation for what must surely be another memorial for Michael?

from notes by Paul Andrews © 2012


Other albums featuring this work
'Music for Remembrance' (CDA68020)
Music for Remembrance
CDA68020  To be issued soon October 2014 Release  
'Howells: Requiem; Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor' (CDH55220)
Howells: Requiem; Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55220  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Howells: St Paul's Service & other works' (CDA66260)
Howells: St Paul's Service & other works

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