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Fantasy-prelude for organ

Harvey Grace was the son of a tailor in Romsey, the fourth of five sons who sang in the Abbey there, three of whom also studied the organ. He went on to become organist of various churches in London, including St Alphege, Southwark, St Agnes, Kennington, and St Mary Magdelene, Munster Square, but by 1925 had become so involved in journalistic work that he decided to free himself from the ties of a church appointment.

He was editor of The Musical Times, a commissioner of the School of English Church Music, and taught at Trinity College of Music. He wrote The Complete Organist, a book that became a bedside companion to many in the profession. French Organ Music, past and present followed, as well as books on the organ works of Bach and Rheinberger. An invitation to become Organist of Chichester Cathedral in 1931 tempted him back into an organist’s post and after seven stimulating years there, he relinquished it to spend his last years as organist of East Grinstead parish church. (The late John Birch, a successor of Grace at Chichester, did much to popularise Resurgam.)

His obituary in The Musical Times celebrated his role as a missionary for music:

‘Grace had a knack of projecting his personality into anything that he wrote—into his way of handling a subject as well as his language of the pen; and since his was a particularly genial and stimulating personality his pages brought a rare sense of contact between writer and reader.—Grace was unaware of the rule that writing for print had to be writing on its best behaviour. He did not hesitate to enliven a serious subject with colloquialisms and homely illustrations. One often felt that to read his articles and editorial comments was like hearing him talk from the corner of his mantelpiece. In short, Harvey Grace had a way of making friends with those who read him;—To him music was an art for everyman; so it was to everyman that he addressed himself.’

His mission to everyman saw him seeking out opportunities to coax music out of ordinary people of no great aspiration, and at his first appointment, in Binfield in Berkshire, he started up a boys’ club, whose members he instructed in singing and cricket, ‘or it may be’, as the obituary writer put it, ‘cricket and singing’ and in 1912 he took a Working Girls’ Choir to the Paris International tournament and won second prize. Despite the sense of humour that he injected into much of his writing, he took his role as a missionary for music very seriously, believing that if music was worth taking an interest in, ‘it was worth troubling about, and deserved at least as much application as the average hobbyist gives his carpentry or fishing or golf. He fell out with the BBC over the impression it gave in the Radio Times that all the public had to do to be musical was to ‘sit back and let the stuff blow over the senses and the license it gave to Radio Times writers to interpret music in terms of their ‘untutored sensual reactions and external fancies’. (Goodness knows what he would have made of the situation today.)

His output as a composer was small and warranted only a small paragraph in his lengthy obituary; he wrote some organ works and part-songs, two anthems and a Service; and he made a complete edition of Rheinberger’s Organ Sonatas for Novello’s. The Fantasy Prelude Resurgam, dating from 1922, is the tenth of his Ten Pieces for Organ and is based on the hymn tune of that name by Thomas Adams, which can be found in the Burial of the Dead section of the American Church Hymnal of 1892, with words by Charles Wesley:

Blessing, honour, thanks, and praise / pay we, gracious God, to thee.

from notes by Emma Cleobury © 2016


The King of Instruments
Studio Master: KGS0020Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 9 on KGS0020 [8'21] Download only

Track-specific metadata for KGS0020 track 9

Recording date
17 January 2017
Recording venue
King's College Chapel, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Simon Kiln
Recording engineer
Arne Akselberg
Hyperion usage
  1. The King of Instruments (KGS0020)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: June 2017
    Download only
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