Though Harold Darke (1888-1976) was closely associated with the Church and its music throughout his life, it was primarily as a performer and conductor that he gained a worldwide reputation. His studies began at the Royal College of Music where he took organ lessons with Parratt and composition with Stanford. (He later returned to the college as Professor between 1919 and 1969.) In 1916 Darke became organist at St Michael’s, Cornhill, a post which he maintained until 1966. Here Darke gave regular organ recitals, founded the St Michael’s Singers (1919), organized music festivals for which composers such as Howells and Vaughan Williams submitted new works, and made the church a cultural centre specializing in performances of Bach’s music. Darke was President of the Royal College of Organists from 1940 to 1941 and acting organist at King’s College from 1941 to 1944 during the absence on war service of Boris Ord. Darke was a Fellow of the University from 1945 to 1949, and in recognition of his contributions to music he was awarded an honorary Cambridge MA, an Oxford DMus, and he was appointed CBE in 1966. The Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F, which form part of a Complete Service, were early works, composed between 1910 and 1913 and published in 1923. Darke himself regarded the Nunc dimittis as ‘perhaps one of the best things I’ve ever written’, though he is probably best known for his carol In the bleak mid-winter. The Magnificat of the Evening Service is stylistically very interesting; the vocal textures are forever changing, with solo and unison phrases followed by thick double choir passages, then simple diatonic four-part sections. There are also several unusual and bold harmonic passages especially in the organ part. The Nunc dimittis starts with a tranquil bass solo but culminates in a dense eight-part texture which leads to a majestic Gloria.
from notes by Sarah Langdon © 1988