Unlike Howells, Herbert Murrill (1909-1952) is not particularly renowned for his association with the Church and its music. As a composer, he tended to favour the smaller media, though his list of works includes such diverse items as incidental music for films, ballets and plays, a string quartet, two cello concertos and a jazz opera. His education began at Aske’s School, Hatcham, where he won the Musicians’ Company Carnegie Scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music. However, Murrill chose to relinquish the place in order to study at the Royal Academy (1925-8) under Bower, Marchant and Alan Bush. From 1928 to 1931, Murrill was appointed organ scholar at Worcester College, Oxford, studying with Harris, Walker and Allen. While still at University, his jazz opera Man in Cage (1929) was performed at the Grafton Theatre in London, 1930. In 1936 Murrill joined the BBC and embarked on a career that was to lead to his appointment as Head of Music there in 1950. In addition he was professor of composition at the Royal Academy from 1933 until his death. It was during his final year of war service in the Intelligence Corps (1942-1946) that Murrill composed the Evening Canticles in E. Though composed in the same year as Howells’s ‘Gloucester Service’, the two works could hardly be more dissimilar. Murrill’s setting is mainly syllabic and the music is conceived on a vertical rather than a horizontal melodic plane. The Magnificat has a fiery, relentless quality and rhythmic interest is provided by constant alternation in metre. The Nunc dimittis is slow and majestic with a rhythmic Gloria.
from notes by Sarah Langdon © 1988