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A Litany '2nd version'

First line:
Drop, drop, slow tears
author of text

Oldham-born Sir William Walton (1902–1983) was a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford between 1912 and 1918. Dr Henry Ley (1887–1962) who had succeeded Harwood as Organist there in 1909 recognized his outstanding talents and introduced him to Sir Hugh Allen, Fellow of New College and Choragus to the University. The Dean at that time, The Very Reverend Dr Thomas Banks Strong, took an interest in young Walton’s welfare and managed to persuade the boy’s father to allow him to become an undergraduate at the University at the early age of sixteen. But Walton left in 1920 having repeatedly failed Responsions—a requirement of the BA degree. He was taught piano by Basil Allchin the Assistant Organist at Christ Church. Despite being surrounded by so many talented musicians and teachers, Walton was virtually self-taught—his teachers merely claiming that they gave him some advice. He later received similar advice from Ansermet and Busoni.

Although much of Walton’s musical success was in the world of secular music-making, he did not abandon church music and wrote a number of anthems and other liturgical works: The Twelve (1965), Missa Brevis (1966), Jubilate Deo (1972) and seven other shorter works, of which one is A Litany —a setting of the beautiful text by Phineas Fletcher (1582–1650). It is quite remarkable that this piece bears the date ‘Oxford 1917’ after the final bar, which means that the composer was only fifteen when he wrote it. All the more remarkable that the piece begins with a discord and that the music paints so dramatically the words ‘Drop, drop, slow tears’—the work of an iconoclast to be sure.

from notes by William McVicker © 1999


A Song of Farewell
Studio Master: SIGCD281Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The English Anthem, Vol. 7
CDA67087Archive Service
Walton: Coronation Te Deum & other choral works


Track 15 on CDA67330 [3'14]
Track 6 on CDA67087 [3'54] Archive Service
Track 2 on SIGCD281 [4'25] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD281 track 2

Recording date
10 November 2009
Recording venue
Ely Cathedral, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
Neil Hutchinson
Hyperion usage
  1. A Song of Farewell (SIGCD281)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: March 2012
    Download only
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