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Dallas Service

author of text
Book of Common Prayer

In a sequence of settings of the evensong canticles, the majority of which were written for the great English choral foundations, one is somewhat surprised, nonplussed even, to find a set called the Dallas Canticles. This slight sense of incongruity is hardly helped by the fact that for many British listeners the name Dallas conjures up memories of a popular American TV soap opera, or of the city where John F Kennedy was assassinated. The prosaic truth is that Howells wrote this set because he was asked to do so by a former pupil, Larry Palmer who was a distinguished American organist and director of music at St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Dallas. The commission fee was put up by a wealthy local philanthropist. There was by the mid 1970s, a growing number of Howells devotees among Anglican Episcopalians (the Anglican Church in the USA), and his music often graced their liturgy. This was to be the last of over 20 settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis that Howells composed, and there is even some evidence to suggest that Dallas poached the setting that he was planning to write for Durham Cathedral! The work was composed at a time of sadness for Howells. His wife Dorothy was gravely ill and she died a few weeks after its completion.

An innovation in the Magnificat, found nowhere else in Howells’ many settings is the repetition of the opening words, sung by a solo soprano just before the Gloria. At the other end of Howells’ musical spectrum, the ‘blues’ chord on D, juxtaposing F sharp and F natural, that leads into the Gloria is identical with the chord that closes the Nunc dimittis of Howells’ first post-war setting, the Collegium Regale of 1945.

from notes by Paul Andrews © 2010


Howells: Choral Music
SIGCD190Download only


Evening Canticle 1: Magnificat  My soul doth magnify the Lord
Track 14 on SIGCD190 [5'35] Download only
Evening Canticle 2: Nunc dimittis  Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace
Track 15 on SIGCD190 [3'18] Download only

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