Monday, 12 February 2018

11th February 2018 Quinquagesima

taken from Wikipedia

Ave Verum  Charles Gounod (1818-1893)

Gounod was born in Paris,  his father an artist and his mother a pianist and also his first piano teacher.  He showed an early aptitude for music.  He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and won the Prix de Rome in 1839 for his Cantata Fernand.  He contemplated taking holy orders but went back to composition before taking his vows.  In 1854 he competed a Messe Solennelle also know as St Cecilia Mass.

The sister of Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny, introduced Gounod to the works of JS Bach, in particcular he admired The Well-Tempered Clavier  and it inspired him to write a melody to the Prelude in C major, later adding the words "Ave Maria" and it became a success. in 1859 he wrote Faust for which he is best remembered.

Between 1870 and 1874, Gounod lived in London, becoming conductor the Royal Choral Society. Much of his music at this time was choral.

As he grew older his music became more sacred. He was made a Grand Officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1888 and died of a stroke in 1893.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

4th February 2018 Candlemass

When to the Temple Mary Went       Johannes Eccard (1553-1611)

Johannes Eccard was a German composer born in Mühlhausen in what is now Thuringia , Germany.  At the age of 18 he went to Munich as a pupil of Orlando Lasso and it is thought he travelled with Lasso to Paris. In 1574 he was back in Mühlhausen and stayed there for 4 years.  With Joachim a Burck he edited a collection of sacred songs, Crepundia sacra Helmboldi (1577). In 1583 he was appointed assisstant conductor and in 1599 conductor at Konigsberg. In 1608 he was called to Berlin as principal conductor, a post he only held or 3 years due to his death.

Eccard's works are mostly choral compositions for 4 to 9 voices, sacred chorales and cantatas. He is much admired by musicians for the polyphonic structure of his work.

Eccard from Wikipedia

Sunday, 28 January 2018

28th January 2018 Epiphany 4

The Lamb      Music John Tavener (1944 - 2013), Words William Blake (1757-1827)

John Tavener from Wikipedia
Tavener was born in Wembley, London.  He was a music scholar at Highgate School, where a fellow scholar was John Rutter. The school choir was often used by the BBC when they needed a boys' choir. He began to compose whilst at school and was also a pianist good enough to perform with the National Youth Orchestra. In 1961 he was organist and choirmaster at St John's Presbyterian church, Kensington, a post he held for 13 years. He went to the Royal Academy of Music in 1962 where he decided to concentrate on composition and gave up the piano.

He came to prominence with his Cantata "The Whale" in 1968. In 1971 he began teaching at Trinity College of Music in London. In 1977 he converted to Russian Orthodox Church.  Orthodox liturgy became a major influence on his composition.  

"The Lamb" written in 1982 for his nephew's third birthday has become a choral classic.  It was composed in a single afternoon for unaccompanied SATB choir, using William Blake's poem.

He was knighted in 2000 for his services to music. John Rutter describes Tavener as having the "very rare gift" of being able to "bring an audience to a deep silence."

William Blake was largely unrecognised during his life, he is now considered to be one of the seminal figures of poetry and art in the Romantic age. He was born in Soho and although his family were English Dissenters, he was baptised.  The Bible  was a profound influence on his work. In 1772 Blake was apprenticed to James Basire, an engraver, for 7 years. At the end of his term aged 21, he became a profession engraver.  He had been taught an outmoded style and it is thought that this tuition held him back from greatness during his lifetime. 

In 1779, Blake began as a student at the Royal Academy where he was somewhat rebellious against Joshua Reynolds.

In 1800, Blake moved to Felpham, illustrating poetry by William Hayley.  He was unhappy in his work and returned to London after 3 years.
William Blake
Blake was often considered "mad" by his contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views.  The singularity of his work makes him difficult to classify. 

"The Lamb" is from a collection of poems "Songs of Innocence".   It was always intended to be sung, but Blake's melody is lost. It was set to music by Vaughn Williams in his song cycle "Ten Blake Songs"  and later by Sir John Tavener.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

23rd December 2017 Village Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Notes taken directly from the service sheet.

The Lord at first did Adam make.  David Willcocks (1919-2015)

Joseph and the Angel.  Richard Terry (1865-1938)
Now chiefly known for the 19th Century revival of Tudor church music, Terry also wrote many carols - words and music - as well as being the first Master of Music of Westminster Cathedral and a well-regarded organist an choir trainer.

Our Blessed Lady's Lullaby.  Christopher Chivers (1967-)
A former Precentor of Westminster Abbey, now principal of Westcott House, Cambridge, Chris Chivers wrote this setting of a 16th Century text for the choir of Magdalen College, Oxford.

It came upon the midnight clear.  Willis (1819-1900)/Rose (1934-)
The tune by Richard Storrs Wills is the one most Americans associate with this carol.  Barry Rose, formerly Master of Music at St Paul's and ST Alban's cathedrals, has made a charming arrangement to enhance the simple melody.

Welcome Yule! C Hubert H Parry (1848-1918)
A lively, enjoyable setting of a 15th Century text by the composer of "Blest Pair of Sirens" and "Jerusalem".

Ding dong! merrily on high.  Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003)
A light-hearted  reworking of the traditional carol.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

17th December 2017 Advent 3

"This is the record of John" Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)

This is typical anthem of its time.  It is based on text from the Gospel of John (1:19 -23) and refers to John the Baptist.  It is divided into 3 sections each starting with solo countertenor followed by SATB chorus echoing the words of the soloist. Although usually performed on organ or viol, today Joanna Chivers (our Director of Music) played an electric piano on "harpsichord" mode which added an "early music" feel to the piece.

The anthem was written at the request of William Laud, president of St John's College, Oxford.

Gibbons sang in he choir of Kings College Cambridge between 1598 and 1598, where his eldest brother was master of the choristers. He gained his Bachelor of Music in 1606. King James 1 appointed him a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and he was organist there from around 1615 until his death, being senior organist from 1623. He was also a keyboard player in the privy chamber of Prince Charles (later Charles 1) and organist at Westminster Abbey. He died suddenly at the age of 41.

He wrote a large number of pieces for keyboard, madrigals and many verse anthems of which "This is the record of John" is one.

Orlando  Gibbons [Wikimedia commons]

Monday, 11 December 2017

10th December 2017 Advent 2

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains   from "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion"
John Stainer 1840-1901 Words Isaiah 52 v. 7

Stainer was born in Southwark, London, the son of a cabinet maker. He was a chorister at  St Paul's Cathedral at the age of 10 and at 16, appointed organist at St Michael's College, Tenbury.  In 1960, he became organist at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was allowed to study for a degree so long as it did not interfere with his duties and in 1864 gained his BA, and 2 years later his MA.  He was eventually an examiner for Oxford music degrees.

In 1872 he was appointed organist at St Paul's cathedral, in 1877 an honorary fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, and an examiner for the Doctor of Music degrees for Cambridge and London Universities.  He received his knighthood from Queen Victoria in 1888.

John Stainer (Wikimedia Commons)