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)

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.

22nd October 2017 Trinity 19

"Ave Verum Corpus" Edward Elgar.

Ave verum corpus  is traditionally a communion hymn written by Pope Innocent VI, set to music by many composers over the years.

Edward Elgar (1857-1937) was born in a village close to Worcester.  His father had a music shop in Worcester and tuned pianos. Elgar was mostly self taught.  His influence grew in the 1880's and 1890's  despite his being a Roman Catholic in a largely Anglican community. In 1889 he married one of his pupils, Caroline Alice Roberts, against opposition from her family. She played a major part in his career development.

Elgar is one of the great English composers, who has left a legacy of great orchestral and choral works.

15th October 2017

"Benedictus in C" and "O For A Closer Walk with God" both by C V Stanford.

The Benedictus was composed in 1909 as part of Stanford's Morning and Evening Service together with the Office of Holy Communion Op 115.  Stanford was given the choice to hear one of his services sung at Matins at York Minster in 1923 when he was a guest of the organist, Edward Bairstow. "He chose the one in C", Bairstow recalled, "for he said he had never heard it!"

For more information see 21st May 2017.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

8th October 2017 Trinity 17

Fairest Lord Jesus  German 17th Century, translated by Lilian Sinclair Stevenson (1870-1960)
Silesian folk song (1842) arranged by Martin How.

The music is a folk song from Silesia, a culturally rich area of Europe from the 1st century, now forming part of modern day Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.  The words are a 17th century German hymn adapted by British organist, composer and choir master Martin How.

Some think this was originally The Crusader's Hymn, sung by German crusaders as they made their way to the Holy Land.

Franz Liszt used the tune in his oratorio The Legend of St Elizabeth as a crusader's march and so the tune became known as St Elizabeth.

Martin How (1931- ) was born in Liverpool, moving to Brighton and then Glasgow just before the start of WWII.  He spent most of his childhood in Glasgow. He was awarded an organ scholarship at Clare College, Cambridge, reading Music and Theology.

He spent most of his career with the Royal School of Church Music, principally as a choir trainer, motivating and training young singers. He initiated and developed the RSCM Chorister Training Scheme used in various forms around the world.

He was appointed MBE for Services to Church Music in the 1993 New Year Honours List .

1st October 2017 Harvest Thanksgiving

Look At The World   Words and Music by John Rutter.
This was written in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

John Rutter was born in London in 1945 and had his first musical training at Highgate School as a chorister. He studied music at Clare College, Cambridge where he wrote his first published music and had his first recording whilst still an undergraduate.

John Rutter
John Rutter [Wikimedia Commons]

His compositions cover a wide variety of musical genres but he is well know by all choirs who must have some Rutter in their repertoire. He formed the Cambridge Singers and spends his time composing and conducting.

He was awarded a CBE for services to music in the 2007 Queen's New Year Honours List.

30th September 2017

St Mary's choir was asked to sing again at the sung communion service held in Chichester Cathedral for the Prayer Book Society.

The communion service was the Darke setting in F Major.
This setting was dedicated to the Rev. John H Ellison M.V.O. Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill, E.C.

Harold Edwin Darke (1888-1976) was born in Highbury, London.  His first post as organist was at Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead from 1906 - 1911.  He became organist at St Michael's, Cornhill in 1916 and stayed there until 1966, leaving for a short time to deputise for Boris Ord as Director of Music at King's College, Cambridge during the second World War.  Darke started lunchtime concerts at St Michel's in 1916 and these are the thought to be the longest running lunchtime organ concert series in the world.

He is best known for his setting of Christina Rossetti's poem "In the bleak midwinter".  His othr music still performed are his Communion Services in E minor, F major and A minor, and his Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis in F major.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Friday, 22 September 2017

3rd September 2017

"Ave Maria" by Rihards Dubra

"Ave Maria" is the Hail Mary.  It is a common motif used in religious choral works.

Rihards Dubra is a Latvian composer born 28.2.1964.  He started his piano studies at he age of 7 at the Music School in Jurmala near Riga.  From 1978, he continued his studies in music theory at the Emils Darzine Special Music School in Riga.  From 1982 - 1989, he studied composition with Prof. Adolfs Skulte at the Latvian Music Academy.  In 1996 he attained his MA in composition.  Whilst studying, he also worked at the Music College in Jurmala teaching music theory and composition.

He writes mainly sacred music, choral, symphonic music, Mass and cantatas.

Sunday 17th September 2017

"O Lord my God" by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 - 1876)

The words are from King Solomon's prayer based on 1 Kings 8.

For more on the composer see 9th July 2017.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday 30th July Trinity 7

“Panis Angelicus”  César Franck

“Panis Angelicus” (Bread of Heaven) is the penultimate strophe (stanza) of the hymn “Sacrum solemnis” written by St Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi.

This particular stanza has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn.  In 1872 César Franck set the stanza for Tenor voice, harp, cello and organ and incorporated it into his “Messe à trios voix” Op 12.  Today’s version was arranged by Henry Geehl.

César Franck (1822 – 1890) was born in Liège (now Belgium but in 1822 part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands).  He was a composer, pianist, organist and music teacher working in Paris during his adult life.

He gave his first concert in Liège in 1834 and studied privately in Paris from 1835.  He returned briefly to Belgium but after a disastrous reception to “Ruth”, an early oratorio, he went back to Paris.  He married and started his career as teacher and organist.  He gained a reputation for improvisation.

In 1850 he became organist at Sainte-Clotilde where he remained for the rest of his life. He became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1872 and at the same time, he took French nationality, a prerequisite for his professorship. Once at the conservatoire, Franck wrote many pieces that have entered the classical repertoire.

Sunday 23rd July Trinity 6

Ave Verum Corpus W A Mozart (K618)

Ave Verum Corpus (Hail, true body) is a setting of the Latin Hymn, in D major.  It was written for Anton Stoll, a friend and church musician of St Stephen, Baden.

It was composed in 1791 whilst visiting his wife Constanze who was pregnant with their 6th child and staying at the spa Baden bei Wien.  It was composed for the feast of Corpus Christi.  Mozart's manuscript has only "Sotto voce" marked at the beginning with no other markings.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Mozart was a child prodigy competent on keyboard and violin.  He began composing at the age of five. He performed around Europe for royalty.  At the age of 17 he was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court but was restless and travelled looking for a better position.  Whilst visiting Vienna he was dismissed from his position in Salzburg.  He remained in Vienna, where he gained fame but no financial security.

He composed more than 600 works, many acknowledged as the finest in symphonies, concertante, operatic, chamber and choral music.  He remains one of the best loved classical composers, whose work influenced many composers.  Joseph Haydn said of Mozart "Posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."

Sunday, 16 July 2017

16th July Trinity 5

"Thou Visitest The Earth" from "Thou O God Art Praised in Sion" Dr Maurice Greene (1696 - 1755)

"Thou Visitest The Earth" is a setting of Psalm 65 for solo tenor or baritone and SATB chorus.  In our case today, the solo was taken by the altos.  It is commonly used as a Harvest anthem speaking of God's blessings on the earth.

Maurice Green was born in London, his father, Thomas Greene, was chaplain of the Chapel Royal and canon of Salisbury. Young Maurice began his studies under Jeremiah Clarke and Charles King at St Paul's Cathedral. In 1714 he gained his first musical post as organist at St Dunstan-in-the-West on Fleet Street. In 1717 he became organist at St Paul's Cathedral.

Greene was a founder member of the Castle Society, established in 1724. He also helped found the Academy of Ancient Music.

In 1730, Greene was admitted "Doctor in Musica" at Cambridge University and later was made a professor of music there.

In 1735, Greene was elected Master of the King's Music, the highest musical position in the land.

Originally a friend of Handel, Handel had a disagreement with another composer, Giovanni Bononcini, but when Greene continued his friendship with Bononcini, this upset Handel and a lifelong feud ensued.

Monday, 10 July 2017

9th July 2017 Trinity 4

"Lead me Lord" from "Praise the Lord, O my soul" by Samuel Sebastian Wesley

"Praise the Lord, O my Soul" was written in 1861 and contains the short anthem "Lead me Lord". It was composed when Wesley was organist at Winchester College and Cathedral. "Lead me Lord " is the final section of the work, and has a wondrous simplicity with 2 short solo parts which lend themselves beautifully for young choristers starting on solo work.

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 - 1876) was the illegitimate son of Samuel Wesley and Sarah Souter, and grandchild of Charles Wesley. He was a choirboy in the Chapel Royal and then embarked on a musical career.  He was appointed organist at Hereford Cathedral in 1832 and then married the Dean's sister.  He moved to Exeter Cathedral in 1835 and 1842, Leeds Parish Church, 1849 - Winchester Cathedral, 1865 - Gloucester Cathedral.  In 1839 he achieved his Bachelor of Music and Doctorate of Music from Oxford.  He became Professor of Organ in the Royal Academy of Music in 1850.

His work was almost exclusively for the Anglican church.  With Father Willis he is jointly credited with the invention of the concave and radiating pedal board for organ which has now become the standard internationally.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

2nd July 2017

"Never Weather Beaten Sail " music by Charles Wood, poem by Thomas Campion.

“Never Weather beaten Sail” uses the poem from the renaissance by Thomas Campion (1567- 1620) who wrote both poetry and music during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. The storm tossed boat and its tired sailors are a metaphor for the soul’s journey. As they seek for a harbour and anchor from the restless sea, so does our soul seek refuge and peace. Wood successfully transformed a renaissance poem into a song which does not have the over sentimental feel of much Victorian music.

Charles Wood (1866-1926) was born in Ireland. He was a treble chorister in the nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. He received his early education in the cathedral choir school and also studied the organ under Robert Turle and Dr Thomas Marks. In 1883, he was one of the inaugural students of the Royal College of Music, studying composition under Charles Villiers Stanford and CHH Parry. After four years he continued his studies at Selwyn College, Cambridge. In 1889 he was appointed as organ scholar in Gonville and Caius college, Cambridge, becoming a fellow in 1994 and Director of Music and organist. Following the death of Stanford in 1924 Wood took over the role of Professor of Music in Cambridge.

He is remembered for his Anglican Church music.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

25th June 2017 Trinity 2

John Stainer “God so loved the world” from “The Crucifixion”

“The Crucifixion: A Mediation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer” was composed in 1887 and first performed on 24th February of that year. It was dedicated to his friend and pupil W Hodge and the choir of Marylebone Church.  It is a sacred oratorio for tenor and bass soli, SATB choir and organ. W J Sparrow Simpson wrote the libretto.  The work has been dismissed in the past, even Stainer himself calling it “rubbish” but it is continued to be a staple of church music since its first performance, especially around Easter. “God so loved the world” is one of the choral pieces, but the text can be used at any time in the church calendar, as it is reflecting part of the Eucharist.

Sir John Stainer (1840 – 1901) was an English composer and organist.  He was very popular during his life, but now little of his music is performed other than “The Crucifixion”. He was the Heather Professor of Music at Oxford, and his training of choristers and organists set standard that remain influential today.

He was born in Southwark, London, son of a cabinetmaker.  He was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral at the age of ten. At sixteen he was appointed organist at St Michael’s College, Tenbury.  He was later organist at Magdalen College, Oxford and the St Paul’s Cathedral. Whilst at Magdalen he was allowed to study as long as it did not interfere with his duties as organist.  He chose to do so and in 1864 gained his BA with his MA coming 2 years later. Due to poor eyesight he had to retire from St Paul’s whist in his forties and returned to Oxford to take up his chair. Queen Victoria honoured him with his knighthood in 1888 for his services to British music, the same year he retired from St Paul’s. He died unexpectedly whilst holidaying in Italy.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

18th June 2017 Trinity 1

C V Stanford "Jubilate Deo" from Morning, Communion and Evening Service in B flat, Op 10.  The words of the Jubilate are Psalm 100, which is the psalm for this Sunday.

For further information see the post on 21st May 2017.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

11th June 2017 Trinity Sunday

Tchaikovsky "Holy, Holy, Holy".

"Holy, Holy, Holy" is used for Trinity Sunday as it speaks of the Blessed Trinity. It  is a Christian hymn written by Reginald Heber (1783 - 1826) (1783–1826) but more usually set to "Nicaea" by John Bacchus Dykes (1823 - 1876).

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) studied law before studying at the St Petersburg conservatoire 1863-1865. He went to Moscow in 1866 to become professor of harmony in the new conservatoire. In 1877 he attracted the patronage of a widow, Nadejda von Meck, who gave him an annual allowance which meant he could give up teaching and concentrate on his composition. This patronage ended in 1890.  

Tchaikovsky remains a popular composer. His music is extremely tuneful, romantic, luxurious and filled with emotions that go straight to the heart.  

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Forth coming concert in the church.

21st May 2017

The choir pieces were both by C V Stanford, the "Te Deum" in B flat and "O for a closer walk with God".

The "Te Deum" is from Morning, Evening and Communion Service in B flat Major first performed in Trinity College Chapel,Cambridge on 25th May 1879.  "O for a closer walk with God" is Op 113 No 6.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) thought to be one of our great British composers was actually Irish, born in Dublin, although educated at The University of Cambridge and then studied music in Leipzig and Berlin.

Whilst an undergraduate, he was appointed organist of Trinity College, Cambridge and was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music, where he taught composition for the rest of his life.  He was also Professor of Music at Cambridge.  His pupils included Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams whose fame went on to surpass his own.

He is best remembered for his sacred choral compositions for church performance in the Anglican tradition. Along with Hubert Parry and Alexander Mackenzie, he was thought responsible for the renaissance of music in the British Isles.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

14th May 2017

The anthem today was Mozart's "Ave verum corpus".

“Ave verum corpus” (Hail, true body) is a motet in D major, composed in 1791 (K. 618). It was composed for Anton Stoll a friend of both Mozart and Joseph Haydn, who was the musical co-ordinator of a church near Vienna.  It was written to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.  Mozart’s  manuscript contains minimal musical direction, with only a single “sotto voce” at the beginning of the piece. It was written only 6 months before Mozart’s death.

Mozart ( 27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791) was born in Salzburg, Austria and considered to be a child prodigy, being proficient at keyboard and violin at the age of 5 when he commenced composing. He performed before European royalty.  At age 17 he was engaged as a musician in the Salzburg court, but was restless and travelled to find a better position.  He was dismissed from his Salzburg post whilst travelling. He chose to stay in Vienna, the capital, where he became famous but had no financial security.  He composed more than 600 works and remains a popular classical composer.

May 13th 2017

The choir sang J S Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" at a wedding.

This is the common title of the 10th and last movement of the cantata “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (BVW 147) composed in 1716 and 1723.  It is commonly played at weddings and Christian festive seasons of Easter and Christmas.  Much of the music of this cantata comes from Bach’s Weimar period (the 1716 parts) finished in 1723 in Leipzig.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He was a highly respected organist in his lifetime, although not recognised as a composer of magnitude (possibly one of the greatest) until a revival of his works in the first half of the 19th century. He showed considerable skill in counterpoint and harmony. He was able to adapt rhythm, form and texture from abroad. He was a prolific composer of church music due to the demand for huge numbers of cantatas over the Christian year.  It is thought her wrote over 300 with only around 200 surviving. He also wrote many other works sacred and secular.  It is now agreed that his music has technical command, intellectual depth and artistic beauty.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

7th May 2017 Easter 4. Good Shepherd Sunday

Today the choir sang Howard Goodall's "The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm23)".  This was written in 1994 for the BBC's "The Vicar of Dibley".  He felt that the setting of a familiar sacred text with traditional choral singing would offset the quirky humour of the story lines.

Howard Goodall is a composer of choral music, stage musicals, film and TV scores (including "The Vicar of Dibley", "Mr Bean" and "QI").  In January 2007 he was appointed Ambassador for Singing in England, the first ever such appointment due to his energetic campaigning for music education.  His settings of "Psalm 23" and "Love Divine" are amongst the most performed contemporary choral works. Many younger people now only know Howard Goodall's setting of Psalm 23.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Annual choir photo taken after the Good Friday service.

Maundy Thursday 13th April 2017.

The choir sang Duruflé’s  Ubi Caritas from Quatre motets sur des themes grégoriens Op 10 for choir a capella (1960).

Duruflé was born in 1902 and was a chorister in Rouen Cathedral choir school. Moving to Paris when he was 17, he took organ lessons and joined the Conservatoire de Paris in 1920, graduating with first prizes in organ, harmony, piano accompaniment and composition.

Ubi caritas is a hymn of the western church traditionally used as one of the antiphons for the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday.  The Gregorian melody was composed sometime between 4th and 10th centuries with the text believed to be from early Christian gatherings before the formalisation of the Mass.

At the ending of the service Psalm 22 was sung in plainsong, women and men alternating verses as the altar was stripped ready for the Gethsemeny Watch.

Good Friday 14th April 2017

Olivet to Calvary  John Henry Maunder (1858-1920) words by Shapcott Wensley.

Maunder was born in Chelsea and studied at The Royal Academy of Music in London.  He was organist at St Matthew's, Sydenham and St Paul's, Forest Hill, as well as churches in Blackheath and Sutton.  He was an accompanist at The Albert Hall and trained the choir for Sir Henry Irving's original production of Faust in 1887.

His sacred cantatas were widely performed and admired but went out of fashion, to be revived in the Netherlands and UK. 

Olivet to Calvary is considered to be a fine example of music written for the late Victorian/early Edwardian Anglican church. Some today may find it sentimental, but it has a sincerity and dedication which has carried the piece onwards despite being a product of its time.   It considers the last few days of the life of Christ on earth.

The choir's rendition was interspersed with readings which reflected the music.