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The Lamentation

First line:
How doth the city sit solitary
composer
an alternative to the Bendicite at Matins
author of text
Lamentations, selected by the Revered E M Milner-White

 
Dr Francis Jackson’s book (Blessed City, York, 1996) on Sir Edward Bairstow (1874–1946) contains the five chapters of Bairstow’s incomplete autobiography together with letters to Jackson during the Second World War. One letter, dated 6 August 1942, reads as follows: ‘I have just done a “Lamentation”, the words from the Lamentations of Jeremiah selected by the Dean [of York, the Very Reverend E M Milner-White]. It is just a few chants of irregular pattern, and a refrain; but it is effective.’

It is interesting that this approach to composition is quite different to the complexities of his earlier pieces (If the Lord had not helped me, for example, written in 1910). An extract from his autobiography in the days when he was articled to Sir Frederick Bridge at Westminster Abbey in the 1890s records the funeral of Gladstone held there in 1898: ‘Gladstone’s funeral gave me a grand opportunity of seeing a host of celebrated personages. The choir was a union of all the most celebrated London choirs, together with St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The wonderfully solemn yet simple burial sentences of William Croft (1678–1727) sung unaccompanied by that great choir impressed me very deeply.’

Could it be that, subconciously, Bairstow was seeking something of the simplicity of Croft’s burial sentences in The Lamentation? Certainly this straightforward approach has a strong effect.

from notes by William McVicker © 1997

Recordings

Passiontide at St Paul's
CDH55436

Details

Track 4 on CDH55436 [10'17]

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