Sunday, 3 December 2017

3rd December 2017 Advent I

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came. Sabine Baring-Gould  Basque traditional arr. Edgar Pettman.

This is a Basque Christmas folk carol based on the annunciation of the Virgin Mary by Archangel Gabriel.  It was collected by Charles Bordes (1863 -1909) a french music teacher and composer and paraphrased into English by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) an Anglican priest and collector of folk songs. It is commonly sung to an arrangement by Edgar Pettman (1866-1943) English organist, choral conductor and music editor.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Sunday 26th November 2017 Christ the King

O thou the central orb.  Charles Wood Words by H R Bramley

Charles Wood (1866 - 1926) was the third son of Charles Wood Sn, born in Vicar's Hill in the Cathedral precincts of Armagh.  He was a treble chorister at St Patrick's Cathedral (Church of Ireland). His early musical education was at the cathedral and he studied organ under Robert Turle and Dr Thomas Marks.  He  became one of 50 inaugural students at the newly formed Royal School of Music and studied under Stanford and Parry. After 4 years he continued his studies at Selwyn College, Cambridge. In 1889 he was given a teaching post at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, first as organ scholar and in 1894 became a fellow. Stanford died in 1924 and Wood succeeded him as Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge.
He is chiefly known for his Anglican Church Music, writing settings for the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis and  numerous service settings, all of which are still regularly sung by church and cathedral choirs.

H R Bramley (1833 - 1926) was a priest and Oxford academic at the height of the Oxford movement. He was later  Canon Precentor of Lincoln. He was considered to be a High Church Conservative.  His text of "O thou the central orb" is considered to be comparable with the great metaphysical poets such as John Donne. The "Central orb" is thought to be Jesus, as the orb is a sign of kingship.

Sunday 19th November 2017

God be in my head.  John Rutter

God be in my head is one of the earliest English prayers found in the Sarum Primer of 1514. It is a prayer for God's guidance. John Rutter has written a beautiful setting to these profound yet simple words.

For more on John Rutter, see 1st October 2017.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

12th November 2017 Remembrance Sunday

"They are at rest" Edward Elgar (1857-1934)  Words by Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)

The following was  taken from Oxford Choral Classics sheet music.

Elgar is recognised, along with Parry and Stanford,  as one of the outstanding British composers of the period around 1900, and a leader of the so-called English Musical Renaissance, this was a rebirth of internationally significant composition in Britain after almost two centuries of relative insularity and mediocrity.  Choral music formed a significant part of Elgar's output, both on a large scale in his oratorios and cantatas and also in his fairly numerous smaller pieces.  Most of these were secular part-songs, but there is also a modest quantity of sacred music (Elgar was a Roman Catholic, and as such was not often invited or obliged to write for the Anglican Liturgy).

They are at rest described by the composer as an "elegy for unaccompanied chorus" was written at the peak of Elgar's artistic maturity in 1909. The occasion was a service at the Royal Mausoleum in Windsor commemorating the anniversary of Queen Victoria's death.  For its text Elgar turned to Cardinal Newman (whose poem The Dream of Gerontius had formed the basis of Elgar's great oratorio of 1900). The quiet, reverent dignity of the piece bears witness to the seriousness with which Elgar took the choral medium; and the wealth of detailed markings in the score indicates the importance he attached to meticulous and expressive performance.
Edward Elgar [Wikimedia Commons]

Friday, 10 November 2017

5th November 2017 All Saints

"Give us the wings of faith" by Ernest Bullock, words Isaac Watts.

This anthem was written for All Saints' Day, the words from a hymn by Isaac Watts.

Sir Ernest Bullock (1890-1979) was not primarily a composer, but an educationalist and organist.  He was born in Wigan, where he became organist at his parish church. He was then assistant organist at Leeds Parish Church in 1907.  In 1908, he received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Durham, gaining his Doctor of Music in 1914. In 1912, he was assistant organist at Manchester Cathedral.  After WW1 he was organist at St Michael's College, Tenbury, almost immediately moving to Exeter as cathedral organist in 1919.  In 1928 he succeeded Sir Sidney Nicholson as Master of Choristers in Westminster Abbey.  He provided music for the coronation of King George VI, writing most of the fanfares for that and also the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.
 In 1941, Bullock went to Glasgow as the Gardiner Professor in Music at the university. In 1952 he became director of the Royal College of Music.  He was knighted in 1951 and he retired in 1960.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was born in Southampton, the son of a committed religious nonconformist. His father, also Isaac was twice incarcerated for his beliefs.  He received a classical education at the King Edward VI school, but was barred from attending Oxford or Cambridge universities as they were restricted to Anglicans. He went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690. He was pastor of a large independent chapel in London where he helped train preachers.  However, his religious opinions were more ecumenical than was usual for a nonconformist. He promoted education and scholarship rather than preaching for a particular sect. He is famous for the writing of the words of hymns. He promoted hymn singing and his prolific hymn-writing helped to usher in a new era of English worship.
Isaac Watts, by unknown artist {Wikimedia commons]

Monday, 30 October 2017

29th October 2017 Last after Trinity Reformation Sunday

The anthem was "Turn thy face from my sins" by Thomas Attwood (1765 - 1838)  based on Psalm 51 vv 9-11.

Attwood was born in London, the son of a musician in the royal band. He became a chorister in the Chapel Royal by the age of nine.  He was sent abroad to study at the expense of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) who was impressed by his skill at the harpsichord.  He was a favourite pupil of Mozart. He returned to London in 1787.

In 1796 he was made organist of St Paul's and the same year composer of the Chapel Royal.  For George IV's coronation he wrote the anthem "I was glad".

Much of his work is forgotten, only a few anthems regularly performed including "Turn thy face from my sins".

As this was Reformation Sunday, the choir also sang Psalm 46 to a chant written by Martin Luther and "Ein feste Burg" based on psalm 46, melody also by Martin Luther (1483-1546). Luther was a German professor of theology, composer, priest and monk and was a leading light in the Reformation.

Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration
Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 28 October 2017

28th October 2017

Requiem Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Taken from the service sheet.

Gabriel Fauré, born in 1845, was appointed titular organist a La Madeleine, Paris, in 1896 and director of the Paris Conservatoire in 1905.

Fauré started to think about the composition of a requiem in 1885 after the death of his father.  Unlike Berlioz and Verdi he removed the Dies Irae sequence, which he considered over theatrical.  Hence the Offertorium comes up much sooner than is usual in a requiem mass setting.  He permits himself only a brief reference to the “day of wrath” in the Libera me baritone solo.

Gabriel Faure
Gabriel Fauré by John Singer Sargent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons"

Fauré’s Requiem happily lends itself to a liturgical performance by amateur choirs, being particularly popular with English choirs, with the organ taking the place of the orchestra. This seems to have been recognised early on its life, coinciding as it did with liturgical experimentation in the Church of England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – experiments now adopted and sanctioned for universal use with the introduction in 1980 of the Alternative Service Book and more recently the Common Worship services. These owe their formation to the proposed 1928 Prayer Book and the English Missal (1933) and their structure, including additions to the Book of Common Prayer, fit best with Fauré’s arrangement of sections. The 1928 Prayer Book and English Missal largely formalised a variety of liturgical practices which had been used in sung Communion services previously.  

The service is an act of worship, to include remembrance of the departed, and may sound something like a similar service in an English church at about the time of Faurés death in November 1924, when sections of his requiem were sung at his funeral at La Madeleine.