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.
from notes by William McVicker © 2005