Like S S Wesley Herbert Sumsion (1899–1995) was Organist of Gloucester Cathedral, serving there from 1928 until 1967. A chorister at Gloucester in the days of A H Brewer, Sumsion was steeped in the traditions of English cathedral music and the Three Choirs Festival, and his outlook must as a young man have been dominated to a large extent by Elgar; but the music of Elgar’s younger contemporary Vaughan Williams had more influence upon him, as the Air, Berceuse and Procession
demonstrates. The first movement is fleet and scherzo-like, its principal melody a jaunty tune for whistling rather than singing. The modally inflected themes, parallel fifths and hemiolas of the finely wrought second movement underline the extent to which Sumsion had absorbed the music of Vaughan Williams (there is much here that could almost be by the master himself). The third movement is in A–B–A form, the flowing ‘B’ section again calling to mind Vaughan Williams, the sturdy ‘A’ section nodding occasionally in the direction of Percy Whitlock. Listening to this movement, it is not hard to imagine a civic procession making its way down the great Norman nave of Gloucester Cathedral, with Dr Sumsion seated at the console of the old Harrison & Harrison organ and playing this fine, stirring music.
from notes by Relf Clark © 2005