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Ex Cathedra Newsletter6 - May 2014   
Newsletter 6, May 2014 Minimise
 
 

…our latest website Newsletter, with paragraphs about composers, performances and anniversaries, as well as occasional mentions of items in our catalogue that we feel merit a timely word or so.

Royal Anniversaries

The diamond anniversaries of the Queen’s Accession and Coronation have been and gone, but the associated celebratory concerts included a number of performances of Boyce’s Coronation Anthems, and it is perhaps fair to say now that these have made a festive entry into the choral & orchestral repertoire!  Cathedral Music publishes them all, in Maurice Bevan’s exemplary editions, and details may be found in Section 11 of our Catalogue.

 

Another seemingly associated development has been the increase in the number of concerts featuring brass and organ, with or without choir. Their often celebratory nature has often picked up the royal themes, but it cannot be denied that part of their attraction is that a concert featuring or accompanied by a brass ensemble is considerably cheaper to mount than one with orchestra!   Our list of publications in these areas is growing fast – see below and Catalogue Sections 4c and 11b.

Francis Grier

We are delighted to be strengthening our association with the music of Francis Grier by the publication of several significant works.  A remarkable proportion of these have been newly commissioned, but despite the fast-growing list, the flame of inspiration seems only to be burning the more strongly. 

Amongst the most important works is a celebration of Vespers interspersed with settings of poems by Elizabeth Cook, and entitled lit by holy fire… (CM 1096). This was commissioned by King’s College, Cambridge, and while individual movements have already been performed there, the first complete performance will take place later in the year.

With it we have published a heartfelt earlier work, Sword in the Soul (CM 1099), a devotion of readings and music for Good Friday, with words by Rowan Williams, with accompaniment for cello and organ.

A joint commission from Christchurch, Oxford, and the Ballet Rambert resulted in a Missa Aedes Christi (CM 1090) for unaccompanied choir which was premiered and danced liturgically last Whitsun in the Cathedral.  While the element of dance is neither indispensable nor always going to be possible, the dancers certainly add a further spiritual dimension to the work. 

The Missa Brevis (CM 1078) for choir and organ, which was written for St Paul’s Cathedral, receiving its first performance there on 22nd May 2011 within the Festival of the London Forum for Contemporary Church Music, won in December 2012 the Liturgical section of the British Composer Awards (BAFTA), which in turn led to the commissioning by the Worshipful Company of Musicians of an unaccompanied choral work entitled At midnight, (CM 1120) to Christmas words by Elizabeth Cook.

Other recent choral works have included Two Poems (CM 1107) to words by D H Lawrence, commissioned and first performed by the chamber choir Pegasus, and a New Year Song  (CM 1127), for double choir, written for the 30th anniversary of the Rodolfus Choir, which was given its first performance at St John’s, Smith Square this New Year’s Eve by the Rodolfus Choir and Inner Voices under their conductor Ralph Allwood.

We have also made a start on the publishing of Francis’ significant corpus of music for Organ, beginning last summer with a beautiful quiet Meditation, written for Thomas Trotter and given its first performance at the Three Choirs Festival. This has been followed by Deo gratias, a magnificent three-movement neo-Baroque work, written for Thomas Trotter in 1991 and now published for the first time.  Other works are in the pipeline, including a Te Deum, whose five movements can either be played straight through or alternated with the plainsong on which it is based, and an Organ Sonata.

Anniversaries

While 2014 has several significant anniversaries in the wider musical world (CPE Bach, Gluck,  Richard Strauss), it is not so notable where Cathedral Music’s composers are concerned!  Nonetheless, anniversaries are a useful peg upon which to plan performances, so we offer ours:-

1814 is the birth bicentenary of TA Walmisley, by whom we publish the Evening Service in Bb for double choir which deserves to be better known, and the anthem Remember O Lord, which has a stunningly beautiful opening Sarabande-like movement for TTBB and organ. We can of course supply many others of his services and anthems, while in the background are interesting works eg for oboe! Exactly fifty years later his father died, having outlived his son.   By TF Walmisley we publish the glee Music all-powerful.

80 years ago – 1934 -  is a year that features prominently in the musical births and deaths columns. Of composers whose music we feature, we note the deaths in that year of Elgar, George Henschel, Holst, EH Lemare and EW Naylor ( Organist of Emmanuel College Cambridge, who are making a feature of his music this year). We salute the 80th birthdays of several of “our” composers, including Sir Nicholas Jackson, Neil Butterworth and Barry Rose, while noting sadly that Alan Ridout, born that year, is no longer with us.

This year Paul Drayton is 70, Paul Trepte is 60, and Jeremy Filsell is 50.

The First World War

But principally 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.  Several works in our catalogue are particularly relevant to the commemorative concerts and services that will undoubtedly be held.

Most immediate is Alan Gray’s short choral suite 1914, which consists of 3 movements set to poems by Rupert Brooke (Now God be thanked, Blow out ye bugles, If I should die). These would be eminently suitable for Remembrance-tide.  This is music of astonishing power and heartfelt beauty, and should be far better known.  Within a couple of years, Gray was mourning the loss of two of his own sons on active service, and in their memory he wrote the stirring anthem What are these that glow from afar, to words by Christina Rossetti. For many years, especially at Remembrance-tide, it enjoyed an extraordinary popularity, but in recent years it has become less often performed, though it well deserves revival.

Meanwhile, within the first few days of the outbreak of War, Gray’s Cambridge colleagues at Emmanuel College were mourning their first losses at sea. The College Organist E W Naylor wrote a beautiful setting of In paradisum for the Men of the Chapel Choir, which was incorporated (as alternative words for the Nunc dimittis) into his Evening Service in D (Double ATB and Organ).

Another work written in 1914 was Stanford’s Thanksgiving Te Deum in Eb op 143, for Choir, Brass and Organ. In some ways this is a puzzling work. It is based on the hymn-tune “St Anne”, and features the Last Post at the words “the noble army of martyrs praise thee,”  so perhaps one has to assume that it was written very early in the War, in honour of the first casualties, but before the full horror and futility of trench warfare became apparent.  In this it mirrors perhaps the poetry of Rupert Brooke rather than Wilfrid Owen.  Stanford’s anthem For lo I raise up, also written in 1914, is perhaps a much more prophetic view of the apocalyptic events about to unfold.  A completely different reaction to the War may be seen in Charles Wood’s setting of Expectans expectavi (This sanctuary of my soul), a poem by C H Sorley, son of a colleague of Wood’s, who was killed in the War.  Wood’s tribute was a deeply personal response, and the music’s warmth and emotion makes a remarkable contrast to his usual less subjective style.

Lawrence Binyon’s Poem For the Fallen was memorably set by Elgar as part of his Choral Suite The Spirit of England. It is not generally known that Cyril Rootham, the Organist of St John’s College Cambridge, had already set the same words, but agreed - somewhat unhappily - with Novello’s to defer publication to allow Elgar’s setting a “clear run”. A few performances were given after the War and it has been recently revived through the efforts of the conductor Alistair Jones. Many who have heard it rate as at least equal in inspiration to the Elgar.  Vocal scores and all orchestral material are available from us on sale or hire.

Plans for a concert in the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate those who had died in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 resulted in the last of Parry’s major choral works, the elegiac Chivalry of the Sea, to words by Robert Bridges, with whom he had often collaborated in the past. We publish the vocal score, and can access the orchestral material.  His Songs of Farewell, too can be seen as a reflection of the world-weariness brought on by the War’s dragging on and on.

But music written in response to the War was not only choral.  Composers and teachers such as Parry and Stanford saw many of their most promising pupils cut off in their prime. Stanford’s Piano Trio no 3 sometimes subtitled In memoriam, was dedicated to the memory of five members of the Royal Flying Corps, including the two sons of his colleague Alan Gray mentioned above. Three of his wartime Organ Sonatas (no 2, the Eroica, no 3, the Britannica, and no 4, the Celtica) all draw on patriotic themes ( - those in the Eroica, which is dedicated to Widor, being French).

Mention of Widor brings to mind his Salvum fac populum tuum, a remarkable piece for brass and organ, written at the time of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, when France was fighting for its life.  Widor even recalled how a piece of shrapnel landed on his desk as he was writing the work!  It opens as a sombre but majestic march, but ends in a magnificent fanfare – representing, one might imagine, Widor’s indomitable hope of ultimate victory.  The work was given its first performance in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris a week after the Armistice in November 1918. Score and parts are in our Catalogue.

Music for Choir, Brass and Organ (Catalogue section 11b)

The fact that we have made several references already to music featuring or accompanied by Brass and Organ shows how rapidly this genre has grown in popularity recently.  Our involvement began in 2002 when John Scott asked us for an arrangement of Parry’s I was glad, which was performed in St Paul’s Cathedral at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Service.  This has now been performed all over the world, and is a firm favourite.

The music of Parry and Stanford seems to lend itself particularly well to this scoring, and we have arrangements of Blest pair of Sirens, Hear my words and Stanford’s Te Deum in Bb.  Mention has already been made of the latter’s Thanksgiving Te Deum in Eb, and an arrangement of his Coronation Gloria is in preparation.

Remaining for a moment with coronation music, the orchestrally accompanied Boyce Coronation Anthems also lend themselves to accompaniment by trumpets and organ, and the brass parts may be had in sets. We should also mention a new work by Francis Grier, called Audi filia (Hearken, O daughter) commissioned for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and first performed last summer in Eton College Chapel.

Brass and Organ (Catalogue section 4c)

Pride of place must go to Widor’s Salvum fac populum tuum, mentioned three paragraphs previously. We have also reissued a majestic work suitable for Easter: Flor Peeter’s Chorale-Fantasy on Christ the Lord has risen, op 101. In general, however, the works we have published in this section are arrangements by Paul Walton, the Sub-Organist of Bristol Cathedral, who has worked closely with the Fine Arts Brass Quintet, and they have premiered many of these pieces.  Most of these arrangements exist in two versions: either for 3 Trumpets and 3 Trombones, often with tuba and timpani, or for Brass Quintet. Amongst the pieces in our catalogue are versions of Brewer’s Marche Hëroique, Gigout’s Grand Chœur Dialogué and Verdi’s Grand March from Aida.

From now on Newsletters will appear on our Website, staying up while their contents remain current, and will then be placed in this Archive section.  (NB Newsletters 1 & 2 preceded the Website).

Ex Cathedra Newsletter 3 - March 2010
Ex Cathedra Newsletter 4 - January 2011
Ex Cathedra Newsletter 5 - Mary 2011