Howells’s visit to St Albans Abbey was in connection with his commission to write an anthem, I love all beauteous things
, for a Festival Service celebrating the Hands of the Craftsman
exhibition in St Albans Abbey in 1977. The wonderfully apt poem by Robert Bridges manages both to imply the material things celebrated in the festival exhibition and Howells’s own ‘credo’ quoted at the beginning of these notes. The anthem opens with an extended pedal point with staccato pedal notes which brings to mind other great pedals in Howells’s output such as the last movement of Hymnus Paradisi
and, perhaps more closely, the last organ Psalm-Prelude
in the First Set which suggests the beating of a heart as the valley of the shadow of death is traversed. But here there is little of that nervousness as he produces a work of such sensuousness that when the three upper voices make their first entry followed almost canonically by the tenors one senses that those repeated pedal notes represent a heart beating a more personal tune.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005