Each quarter our team of church musicians reviews the latest books, CDs, and printed music for the RSCM’s magazines, CMQ (Church Music Quarterly) and Sunday by Sunday. All reviews are now available online, including additional material not published in the magazines – please follow the links below.
CHORAL EVENSONG FOR EASTER DAY
Choir of Durham Cathedral / Francesca Massey and David Ratnanayagam (organ) / James Lancelot · Priory PRCD1126
CHORAL EVENSONG FROM SALISBURY CATHEDRAL
Boy Choristers and Lay Vicars of Salisbury Cathedral / John Challenger (organ) / David Halls · Priory PRCD1118
EVENSONG LIVE 2015
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge / Stephen Cleobury · King’s College Cambridge KGS0011
Three contrasting evensong recordings have winged my way from Durham, Salisbury and King’s Cambridge. The Durham contribution is the entire office of choral evensong as might be heard in the cathedral on Easter Day. Salisbury has themed a service loosely around the themes of ‘light’ and ‘living stones’, while King’s has assembled live recordings from services during the 2013–14 academic year.
Durham’s CD is suitably festive, made up of pieces that have a link with the cathedral. The Easter Acclamation by Conrad Eden (a former organist who retired in the mid-1970s) makes for a good joyous start – after Howells’s D flat Rhapsody. There is a high proportion of contemporary music here, with Michael Berkeley’s setting of First the sun and then the shadow – words by Rowan Williams – commissioned by the cathedral. John Casken’s Evening Canticles were commissioned to mark the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the north of England. By contrast we are treated to a splendid performance of S.S. Wesley’s Blessed be the God the Father, with particularly assured singing from the treble soloist Nicholas Simper. This CD is good to listen to, with confident, tuneful singing and firm accompaniment from organists Francesca Massey and David Ratnanayagam, though it is perhaps a more challenging experience for those with traditional tastes. Under James Lancelot’s direction, the music at Durham has gone from strength to strength with the girls taking (on this occasion) the lion’s share of the treble singing.
Comparatively traditional fare comes from Salisbury with a more timeless service sung by boy choristers and lay vicars, including music by Walter Alcock, a former organist of the cathedral. There is some spirited singing here – in particular in Sumsion’s setting in G of the Te Deum. Although the performance of Elgar’s Light of the World is able and competent, the Sumsion has more energy and engagement. Being local product, Walter Alcock’s Evening Canticles in A also have that same elan.
And finally, to King’s College Chapel, Cambridge for Evensong Live 2015, and a collection of anthems recorded during actual services rather than in a series of recording sessions. From the outset, there’s no mistake about the choir and setting. The programme is varied, from – at one end of the spectrum – a superb men’s voices performance of Tallis’s Loquebantur and Parson’s Ave Maria, to the Magnificat by Giles Swayne and Gorecki’s Totus Tuus. There are also large scale works by Poulenc, Mendelssohn, Parry and Vaughan Williams. Of course with recordings of live performances you’re going to hear coughs, creaks and other noises but that doesn’t take away from the sense of immediacy and extra je ne sais quoi that can be absent from bespoke performances to a recording machine; everyone is on their mettle. Mention must be made of Tom Etheridge’s superb performance of Alain’s Litanies with the final chord resonating around this hallowed space for a full 23 seconds.
If there’s one general criticism of these CDs, it’s the lack of variety in the hymns. For example, Salisbury sings all six verses of ‘Bright the vision’ to Redhead’s tune – all verses are SATB except for the last verse in unison: there’s no trace of a descant. The same goes for the hymn singing in Durham’s service.
Each of these CDs is a fair reflection of the venue, and choral evensong is alive and well. The inclusion of new works, particularly on the Durham CD, gives the lie to any claims that cathedrals are not commissioning new music. In each place these CDs should certainly fly off the shelves in their respective bookshops.
BENEDICTA: Marian chant from Norcia
The Monks of Norcia · Decca (Universal Music) 4811733
If you ever feel the need to lie down in a darkened room with a glass of something restorative (about which more anon) after a hard day’s work at the office, keyboard or whatever, then here is a perfect musical offering to soothe your frazzled mind. This is a collection of 30 different pieces of plainsong, the common thread being the fact that they (in the words of the CD blurb) ‘meditate on the life of the person closest to our Lord, his mother Mary’. Many of the responsories, antiphons and hymns have been chosen because they have rarely featured on other CD recordings of Gregorian chant. This is an excellent sequence, beautifully sung and recorded (and at number 1 in the Billboard Classical Traditional Chart for seven weeks at the time of writing), but apart from a recording of the Basilica Bells on track one, the texture throughout is the same and rather akin to ‘slow television’. There could be more information about this Benedictine community in the CD notes, but after some internet surfing I can reveal there are about 20 brothers – mostly from the USA, and that they are situated in the shadow of the Sybilline mountains about three hours’ drive north of Rome. When they are not singing, day in, day out, they are brewing beer – Birra Nursia – using a method from Trappist monks based in Belgium. Sadly the CMQ budget has ruled out a pilgrimage to sample it on your behalf, so this CD will have to suffice.
SIR HUBERT PARRY
PARRY: I WAS GLAD, CORONATION TE DEUM, THE GREAT SERVICE
Choir of Westminster Abbey / Onyx Brass / Daniel Cook (organ) / James O’Donnell · Hyperion CDA 68089
Already this CD has been favourably reviewed by the leading music industry magazines, though there was much mirth on social media during the summer over a lengthy public comment on an online shopping website that there wasn’t enough 32 foot sound from the organ. Rest assured, there is grandeur and 32 foot sound here in spades. Parry’s noble writing befits the majestic setting of the ‘Royal Peculiar’ that is Westminster Abbey, and vice versa; the minstrels collected here – brass, singers and organist – engagingly reflect both the nobility of the music and the majesty of the setting. As far as Parry repertoire is concerned, most of the key suspects are here, beginning with the wonderfully distinctive Coronation anthem I was glad, recorded here with Vivats, followed by a similarly splendid performance of Blest pair of sirens. After all that grandeur, we are treated to a beautifully tender airing of Dear Lord and Father of mankind in the arrangement by Herbert Arthur Chambers who introduced a new musical idea to the inner verses. One pleasant surprise on this CD is the performance of Hear my words, ye people in an arrangement for brass by Grayston Ives. Jerusalem and the Coronation Te Deum and the Great Service are among the other works here.
Westminster Abbey is not the most resonant place to record in, but the Hyperion team has achieved a good balance, though on a couple of occasions the choir is rather recessed in the splendid mix of brass and Abbey organ. With Jeremy Dibble’s knowledgeable and authoritative notes, this is a fine CD to play again and again.
A YEAR AT MANCHESTER
Choir of Manchester Cathedral / Jeffrey Makinson (organ, piano) / Murray McLachlan (piano) / Christopher Stokes · Regent REGCD443
This survey of the liturgical year contains some excellent music. Mendelssohn’s I waited for the Lord makes a melodious start to the Advent season and showcases the talents of Lucy Ormrod and George Herbert (trebles), reflecting how the top line at Manchester is composed of girls and boys. Simon Preston’s cheeky setting of I saw three ships (Christmas) is immediately followed by Crotch’s impeccably elegant Lo! star-led chiefs (Epiphany), making a striking juxtaposition. The Renaissance motets are particularly enjoyable: In ieiunio et fletu (men’s voices – Lent), John IV of Portugal’s spine-tingling Crux fidelis (Good Friday) and Byrd’s Haec dies (Easter Day) in which the choir makes impressively short work of the rhythmic difficulties.
The organ sounds red-blooded in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s O clap your hands (Ascension). Judith Bingham’s Corpus Christi Carol has a quirkiness that fits the words perfectly; if you have not yet come across this piece it is warmly recommended. The fair chivalry by Robert Ashfield (All Saints – another unusual text) is a splendid pot-boiler of an anthem! Mathias’s Festival Te Deum (Christ the King) is classic Mathias. The programme includes home-grown pieces: The Spirit of the Lord (Advent) by sub-organist Jeffrey Makinson and Breathe on me breath of God (Lent) and How awesome is this place (Dedication) by Christopher Stokes. An attractive disc.
THE MARIAN COLLECTION
Choir of Merton College, Oxford / Charles Warren (organ) / Peter Phillips & Benjamin Nicholas · Delphian DCD34144
The excellence of the choice of pieces is matched by the excellence of the performances. The featured composers are Judith Weir, Palestrina, Tavener, Kerry Andrew (b.1978), John Nesbett (fl.1475–88), Byrd, Stravinsky, Dobrinka Tabkaova (b.1980), Gabriel Jackson, Parsons, Matthew Martin (b.1976) and Bruckner. The huge range of styles is a wonderful testament to the choir’s flexibility, but also demonstrates the enduring inspiration that composers find in such texts as Ave Regina caelorum, Alma Redemptoris mater, Salve regina, Magnificat and Ave Maria. Whether you prefer the contemporary pieces or those of earlier ages is a matter of personal taste, but for me highlights include Kerry Andrew’s multi-textured Salve Regina, Nesbett’s intricate and sunrise-fresh Magnificat, Gabriel Jackson’s lyrical I say that we are wound with mercy and Parsons’ Ave Maria – surely one of the finest settings of these words ever composed.
THE CHURCH MUSIC OF SAMUEL SEBASTIAN WESLEY
The Choir of St Peter’s College, Oxford / Mary Ann Wootton & Daniel Pugh-Bevan (organ) / Roger Allen · OxRecs Digital OXCD129
This disc does not contain the complete church music of S.S. Wesley, but presents an excellent survey of much of the best: O give thanks unto the Lord, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, Blessed be the God and Father, The Wilderness, Wash me throughly and Praise the Lord, O my soul along with the Magnificat & Nunc dimittis in E. The inclusion of the The Wilderness is as welcome as it is brave. The organ scholars execute the organ parts with aplomb in the rather unforgiving acoustic of the college chapel, but Mary Ann Wootton is to be particularly commended for her performance of The Wilderness – one of the trickiest accompaniments in the repertoire.
Wesley’s anthems include much writing for solos and small ensembles, and the students perform these well. Wash me throughly receives a particularly fine rendition by the full choir: expressive yet controlled. A whole disc of S.S. Wesley makes one aware of his strengths and weaknesses, but, on balance, this CD reminds us that his contribution to church music is immense and there is much that is subtle, beautiful and moving.
GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND
Kevin Bowyer plays the organ of Woburn parish church · Priory PRCD 1131
After his recent Organ Party CDs recorded in Lancaster and Glasgow, Kevin Bowyer has headed south for this recital of pre-First World War music on the 1904 Norman and Beard organ in Woburn parish church. His first acquaintance with it was to give a recital. ‘Rarely have I been more bowled over by an organ at first hearing than I was that day.’ Describing it as an undiscovered gem, Bowyer felt it needed to be preserved on disc – hence this recording.
What has resulted is a selection of pieces – sadly many of them forgotten – from a set of volumes of The Organ Loft, published monthly between 1900 and 1915. Bowyer blows the dust off works from organists such as Frank Heddon Bond, Oliver Arthur King and Owen Henry Powell. There is a wide mixture of rousing and charming pieces, sensitively played with some fascinating sound colours. The Woburn organ has considerable versatility and a detailed programme note explains some of the effective stop combinations. Kevin Bowyer has revived a number of gems!
ELGAR FROM SALISBURY
John Challenger plays organ transcriptions on Salisbury Cathedral organ · Regent REGCD463
Currently assistant at Salisbury Cathedral, John Challenger began his career as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral in Three Choirs’ and Elgar territory. John has chosen to return to these roots for this CD of organ transcriptions of orchestral works, including a couple of his own. Transcriptions by other organists include Herbert Brewer’s realization of the Coronation March and by contrast the Larghetto from Serenade for Strings by Caleb Henry Trevor. Elgar’s music combines pomp and grandeur with tenderness and kindly gentility: transferring those varied elements from orchestra to organ could be a risky business given that Elgar is so well-known for the sound of his orchestral writing. The final Prelude and ‘Angel’s Farewell’ from Gerontius is a masterpiece of many tonal colours and varied dynamics – hardly a bar goes by without a piston change! With the weight and majesty of the cathedral’s 1877 Willis organ at his fingertips, John has successfully transferred the breadth of Elgar’s work.
IN PRAISE OF ST COLUMBA: The sound world of the Celtic Church
Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Barnaby Brown (triplepipe & lyre), Geoffrey Webber · Delphian DCD34137
This foray back to the sound-worlds of the sixth-century Irish saint, Columba, is a far cry from the choir’s regular duty in its college chapel. From the blast of a triplepipe at the beginning of track one we are transported into a sequence of different sonorities – plenty of plainchant but with some fine instruments added, namely triplepipe, lyre, Irish horn and bodhrán. The programme notes describe how the various so-called ‘sound-worlds’ are imagined, including seventh-century hymns from Iona, and tenth-century chants from Irish foundations in Switzerland. An example is Carne solutus pater Columba from the Office of Columba, combining Psalm 100 chanted to a plainchant tone by female voices singing a parallel fourth apart – with a triplepipe drone underneath. No music survives from the Celtic church, so evidence for the use of instruments has been drawn from stone carvings, manuscript illustrations and stories in prose. We are told that Barnaby Brown (described as a Highland piper) and the Gonville & Caius choir have collaborated on this project since 2004. This is fascinating to listen to, and the CD notes are detailed and thorough.
GAUDEAMUS OMNES: Celebrating Warwick 1100
Choirs of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick / Mark Swinton (organ) / Thomas Corns · Regent REGCD461
To mark 1,100 years of Warwick, the organists and choirs (boys, girls, men) of St Mary’s Collegiate Church perform a programme of ‘music composed almost entirely within living memory, or by still-living composers’. Bairstow’s Blessed city, heavenly Salem might have been composed 101 years ago, but is surely a timeless classic. The Warwick organs give the choir mighty support; the effect of instrument and voices is thrilling. William McKie’s We wait for thy loving kindness, O God shows the choir’s ability to support and grow phrases to impressive effect. Philip Moore’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in A was composed for St Mary’s and is scored for upper voices and organ. The singing is a model of what young people (the girls in this instance) can achieve. The inclusion of Parry’s I was glad will be an attraction to many potential purchasers, but one hopes that listeners will be pleasantly surprised by David Briggs’s Gaudeamus omnes. The organist is kept busy (as often in Briggs’s music), but the overall effect is one of rapt adoration. Other pieces by Vaughan Williams, Harris, Walton and Richard Shepherd, plus organ solos by Francis Jackson and James MacMillan, add up to an enjoyable hour of listening.
ONE EQUAL MUSIC
St Peter’s Singers / Simon Lindley · http://oneequalmusic.org.uk/
Recorded not in a sacred space but in the Victoria Quarter (a shopping centre) in Leeds, this is part of what sounds like a fantastic project undertaken in the summer of 2014 by St Peter’s Singers. The programme includes some of the unaccompanied greats of the English choral tradition: Bring us, O Lord God, Faire is the heaven and Holy is the True Light by Harris, Let all mortal flesh keep silence by Bairstow and My soul, there is a country by Parry. The adult voices of St Peter’s Singers bring much expressiveness to these wonderful pieces. There are also several contemporary works on the disc by Eric Whitacre (Alleluia), Pärt, Sally Beamish, Morten Lauridsen (O magnum mysterium), James MacMillan, Philip Moore, and Francis Jackson. Rachmaninov’s exquisite Bogoróditse dyévo is a most welcome inclusion.
MUSIC FOR EVENSONG AT GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL
Choir of Gloucester Cathedral / Jonathan Hope (organ) / Adrian Partington · Priory PRCD 1128
This disc is intended as a commemoration of the start of the ‘War to end all wars’ on 4 August 1914. The music is an exquisite tapestry of the old and the new. Notably, it includes three pieces by Ivor Gurney: Chorale Prelude on ‘Longford’, a psalm chant (sung to the words of Psalm 23) and an anthem with words by Robert Bridges, Since I believe in God the Father. This motet for double choir was composed in June 1925 while Gurney was in a mental hospital in Dartford. It is a work of fragile beauty in which might be detected something of the musical language developed by Howells. The Gloucester Service by Neil Cox (b. 1955) is an exciting piece that owes a debt to Howells without aping his style. Other music on the disc is by John Sanders, E.W. Naylor and Goss. Readings and prayers are included and the service closes with a stirring performance of Parry’s Toccata and Fugue ‘The Wanderer’.
HYMNS AND PSALMS
THE COMPLETE PSALMS OF DAVID: Series 2 Volume 7
Psalms 89–104 · Choir of Wakefield Cathedral / Simon Earl (organ) / Thomas Moore · Priory PRCD1120
With this CD the Priory psalm recording bus has rolled into Wakefield in its thirty-day tour through the BCP psalter by way of English cathedrals. Here their stay extends from day 17 evening through to day 20 evening – from Psalm 89 to Psalm 104. As with previous volumes recorded in cathedrals such as Exeter and Lincoln, the idea is to use chants which are previously unrecorded, and in this case to include those with a Yorkshire or at least a northern touch. Here there are chants by two previous organists: Jonathan Bielby (Psalm 100) and Newell Wallbank (Psalm 103). Sir Walter Parratt’s lush B major chant is used for Psalm 92. There is excellent, spirited singing from the choir, who perfectly capture the mood of each psalm; the words and their recitation are clear. This is an atmospheric recording with a clear sense of place.
HYMNS FROM BATH ABBEY
Choir of Bath Abbey / Marcus Sealy (organ) / Peter King · Regent REGCD445
This is an excellent collection of 24 well-known and much-loved hymns, starting with ‘Praise, my soul’ along with other favourites such as ‘All for Jesus’, and ‘O thou who camest from above’. Evenings are not forgotten with ‘The day thou gavest’ and ‘Abide with me’. The singing is superb, with some wonderful descants from the trebles (21 boys and 26 girls); Richard Marlow’s double descants in ‘A great and mighty wonder’ are a case in point. The Abbey has the foresight to have a congregational choir who sing in eight items. Mention must be made of Marcus Sealy: ‘Well played, sir!’ (I was once a pupil of his.) Whatever the arguments for and against using recordings of hymns in live worship, this is an excellent source which could be dipped into – not just for a liturgical sing-along but also to listen to; John Scott’s arrangement of Repton to ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’, sung beautifully by the army of trebles, is a case in point. This is a full recording and every credit to Peter King, the Abbey’s director of music and his team.
AVE MARIS STELLA
Anne Page plays the Kenneth Tickell organ of Little St Mary’s, Cambridge · Regent REGCD436
Anne Page’s impeccable playing, a choice of interesting repertoire and a very fine organ combine to make this a disc of distinction. The organ of Little St Mary’s Cambridge by the late Kenneth Tickell (to whose memory the recording is dedicated) is a beautifully voiced, two-manual instrument with a cleverly conceived stop-list that affords a wide variety of tonal possibilities. The programme includes music by Scheidemann, Bach, Mendelssohn, David Aprahamian Liddle (b. 1960), Bull, Ian de Massini (b. 1959, a former organist of Little St Mary’s), Flor Peeters and Buxtehude. Two of the ‘Bach’ works are of questionable attribution (Prelude in G BWV 568 and the ‘Gigue’ Fugue BWV 577), while a chorale fantasia on ‘Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält’ BWV 1128 was discovered in 2008. Similarly, the Mendelssohn is not one of his better-known organ works. The Allegro (Chorale, Fugue) in D is an extended piece of characteristic contrapuntal ingenuity and charm. To my ears, the organ lacks the Principal (Diapason) tone that the Chorale seems to require, but you can certainly hear every note in a performance that is dramatic, expressive and tasteful. David Aprahamian Liddle’s English Organ Mass is based on Merbecke’s music for Holy Communion. While very much of the late 20th century, it has something of the 16th-century English liturgical organ repertoire about it. Ian de Massini’s Ave maris stella (Arabesque for organ solo) is much easier listening! There is so much variety and so much to relish on this disc.
THE ENGLISH CATHEDRAL SERIES VOL. XIX
David Humphreys plays the William Hill organ of Peterborough Cathedral · Regent REGCD459
Works by Parry, Bull, Schumann, Reger, Buxtehude, Elgar, Mozart, Philip Moore and Dupré make for a recording of great variety and demand great virtuosity from the player – which David Humphreys delivers in spades. After the blaze and bombast of Parry’s Fantasia and Fugue in G, Bull’s verses on Salve regina might be more intimate, but they are technically challenging. Schumann’s Study for the Pedal Piano Op.56, no.5 is performed with charm and not a little whimsy. In Mozart’s Fantasia in F minor K.608, David Humphreys captures the shifting light and shadows. Philip Moore’s Andante tranquillo from his Sonata for Organ is an introspective piece that is worth getting to know. The acoustic of Peterborough Cathedral is heard to advantage in the opening detached chords of Dupré’s energetic Final (from Sept Pièces Op.27). In sum, fabulous music played on a superb organ by a gifted and exciting organist.
Franck: Father of the Organ Symphony
Two DVDs (349 minutes) and two CDs (145 minutes) · Fugue State Films FSF-DVD-009
Yet another exciting release from Will Fraser at Fugue State Films, this documentary focuses on Franck’s major organ works: the early Six Pièces, the middle period Trois Pièces and the late period Trois Chorals, together with a handful of short pieces taken from L’organiste. The latter are sensitively played on an 1891 Mustel instrument by harmonium expert Joris Verdin and on the choir organ at Orléans Cathedral by Jean-Pierre Griveau.
The major works are all performed by David Noël-Hudson on the Cavaillé-Coll organs of Saint-Omer Cathedral, and in Paris of l‘Eglise Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts and l’Eglise Saint-Louis d’Antin (where he is titulaire). His performances are beautifully shaped and wonderfully coloured; he has a romantic style that is restrained and unflashy in a way that Franck would surely have approved. Mr Noël-Hudson also contributes an illustrated analysis of these major works in a documentary film on the first DVD from which both organists and non-playing Franckophiles will learn a great deal.
On the same DVD Eric Lebrun provides a film describing Franck’s life, Joris Verdun speaks about performance practice in relation to Franck’s music and Olivier Penin describes and demonstrates Franck’s organ at Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. The second DVD contains the complete performances with the two CDs duplicating the music for ‘audio only’ listening.
Whilst the previous Cavaillé-Coll set of DVDs from Fugue State had a triple star rating, I found that the recording levels here were often a little too low to be fully aware of all the detail in the playing. Having said that, the DVDs are playable in Surround-Sound, which I do not have and which might give better results.
We should all look forward to Will Fraser’s forthcoming Widor set of DVDs, sponsorship of which I would urge readers to consider.
ST PETER’S DAY AT YORK MINSTER: A musical celebration of the Patronal Festival
The Choir of York Minster / David Pipe (organ) / Robert Sharpe · Regent REGCD439
The programme presented on this disc divides into music for the Eucharist, matins and evensong. A hymn (‘Christ is made the sure foundation’/Westminster Abbey) and chanted psalms are found among David Briggs’s Missa Brevis for York Minster (first recording), Richard Shepherd’s Preces and Responses for Salisbury Cathedral (with the composer as cantor); and various canticles, anthems and motets. The canticles include Stanford’s Te Deum in C and Philip Moore’s arresting Jubilate Deo at matins; and Howells’s New College service and Walton’s Coronation Te Deum (arr. Simon Preston and Mark Blatchly) at evensong. Two large anthems, And when the builders by Shepherd and O quam gloriosum by Moore, reflect the happy fact that the extraordinary levels of musical creativity that York Minster has fostered over the last couple of hundred years have been as alive and well as ever in recent years. Amongst the musical pomp, Harris’s Holy it the true light holds its own as a little gem. Throughout the disc, the performances are of the highest order.
SUNDAY AT NORWICH CATHEDRAL
The Choir of Norwich Cathedral / David Dunnett (organ) / Ashley Grote · Priory PRCD 1121
While St Peter’s Day at York Minster includes Eucharist, matins and evensong, Sunday at Norwich consists of just Eucharist and festal evensong. The hymn ‘How shall I sing that majesty’ (complete with Ken Naylor’s own descant for his superlative tune Coe Fen) opens the disc and is indicative of the excellence of the music that is to follow. Grayston Ives’s Missa Brevis is bold, atmospheric and tuneful. Festal evensong features Ashley Grote’s own Preces & Responses (composed for the Gloucester Youth Choir in 2009) and that glorious hymn ‘O love divine, how sweet thou art’ to S.S. Wesley’s Cornwall. The canticles were composed by Richard Allain (b.1965) to a commission in 2013 as part of Norwich Cathedral’s celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten. They feature a particularly colourful and demanding organ part. Elgar’s monumental Give unto the Lord is given a performance imbued with all the gusto that the piece demands. The boys’ fearless attack in the Elgar is spot on; and David Dunnett’s brilliant execution of the accompaniment brings out so much of the detail. His virtuosic performance of Howells’s Psalm Prelude Set 2, no. 3, which concludes the disc, is also worthy of special mention.
A YEAR AT ELY
The Choir of Ely Cathedral/Edmund Aldhouse (organ) / Alex Berry (organ II) / Paul Trepte · Regent REGCD441
Tracing the liturgical calendar from Advent (Out of your sleep – Richard Rodney Bennett) to Christ the King (O clap your hands – Rutter), this disc takes in Christmas (Away in a manger – Kirkpatrick arr. Pat Brandon), Epiphany (Ascribe unto the Lord – S.S. Wesley), Candlemas (Nunc dimittis in B flat – Wood), Lent (Prayer – Ben Parry), Holy Week (When David heard – Tomkins), Easter (My beloved spake – Hadley, Laudate pueri – Mendelssohn), Ascension (Coelos ascendit hodie – Stanford), Pentecost (Come, Holy Ghost, the Maker – Cedric Thorpe Davie), St Etheldreda (A hymn to St Etheldreda – Matthew Martin, Beati quorum via – Stanford), Harvest (Fear not, O land – Sumsion), All Souls (Justorum animae – Stanford), and Remembrance (Death be not proud – Francis Grier). There is so much to enjoy on this excellent disc – not least the performances. But special mention must be made of the Grier and Rutter pieces, both of which are premiere recordings and stunningly good compositions.
PLAINSONG: THE ECHO OF ANGELS
Portsmouth Cathedral Choir / Oliver Hancock & William Wallace (organ) / David Price · Convivium Records CR025
This disc presents some of the best-loved and most exquisite plainsong melodies in various guises, including: a cappella, with organ accompaniment, and woven into compositions. Some tracks are sung in English, others in Latin (and the Kyries are sung in Greek, of course). The music includes the Advent Prose, Lent Prose, Missa de Angelis, Missa Deus Genitor Alme, and a couple of psalms. The compositions based on plainsong are mostly by conductor David Price, though the disc ends with an organ piece, Meditation on ‘Adoro Te Devote’ by Arthur Wills. The music is beautifully sung with every word clearly enunciated, though some of the tempi are on the slow side, particularly those tracks sung in English with organ accompaniment. The accompaniments themselves are very well executed, with several of them improvised.
A YEAR IN SAINT LOUIS
The Choir of Saint Peter’s Church, Saint Louis / Martha Schaffer (chamber organ) / Brian Reeves (assistant conductor) / William Aitkin (grand organ and director) · Regent REGCD415
The adult voices of the choir of St Peter’s are accompanied by what are evidently two fine organs, both by the English firm of Mander. The programme includes music by a number of American composers: Ned Rorem (b. 1923), Leo Sowerby (1895–1968), Moses Hogan (1957–2003), Louie L. White (1921–79), Joseph Goodman (b. 1918), and director/organist William Aitken. British musicians are well represented, too: Weelkes, Stanford, Arthur Baynon (1889–1954), Leighton, and contemporary composer Sasha Johnson Manning (b. 1963) whose A wonder of angels was commissioned by St Peter’s. It is well worth hearing. Victoria and Widor fly the flag for mainland Europe. Widor’s Tu es Petrus and Surrexit a mortuis have the chamber organ accompanying the choir and the main organ impersonating the roaring of the grand orgue of St Sulpice! The choir of St Peter’s sings throughout with very good blend and discipline.
GREAT EUROPEAN ORGANS NO. 91
Daniel Cook plays the Harrison & Harrison Organ of St Davids Cathedral, Wales · Priory PRCD 1102
St Davids nowadays boasts a four-manual organ of which any British cathedral might be proud. Completed by Harrison & Harrison in 2000, it is based on the three-manual instrument built by ‘Father’ Willis in 1883 and sounds absolutely wonderful on this recording. That its Diapason choruses are magnificent and are crowned perfectly by the Mixtures, and that its big reeds are breathtaking is illustrated in abundance by W.T. Best’s arrangement of the Overture to Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul, which opens the programme. On the very next track, the organ sings so sweetly in Tomkins’s A Sad Pavan for these Distracted Times that one could be forgiven for thinking that it is a different instrument. Varied 20th-century repertoire follows (some of it with Welsh connections) in pieces by W.H. Harris, Walford Davies, Cyril Jenkins (1889–1978), Mathias, Bainton, Arnold Cooke (1906–2005), and Ernest Tomlinson (b. 1924). It is, of course, at least as much the quality of Daniel Cook’s playing as the organ itself that makes every one of these pieces a pleasure to listen to. He judges tempi and gestures so well and brings real cantabile to the lines. His performances are characterized by a real sense of excitement on the one hand, and perfect control on the other. And just in case we thought that organ and organist were suited only to British repertoire, the disc ends with music by Gaston Litaize (1909–91), Pierre Villette (1926–98) and Jean-Jacques Grunenwald (1911–82).
Jeremy Filsell plays the organ of Washington National Cathedral · Raven OAR-942 (two-CD set)
Jeremy Filsell’s virtuosity is very much at home in the music on this pair of discs that feature music by American-based composers, many of whom have been associated with Washington National Cathedral. They are: Raymond Weidner, Gerre Hancock, Nancy Plummer Faxon, Leo Sowerby, George Baker, Pamela Decker, David Briggs, Richard Dirksen, Daniel Gawthrop, Normal Coke-Jephcott, Richard Purvis and Douglas Major. Some of the pieces are distinctly ‘American’ to my ears, particularly on the first disc. Raymond Weidner’s Scherzo (Alleluia) makes an energetic opener, while Nancy Plummer Faxon’s Toccata spins notes at a phenomenal rate. There is a surprising level of background hiss on some tracks, George Baker’s Berceuse-Paraphrase being a case in point. This is a pity since it is a rather lovely piece that gives Jeremy Filsell the opportunity to demonstrate some of the organs’ softer colours. Overall, I found the second disc the more enjoyable of the two, not least on account of the inclusion of David Briggs’s Three Preludes & Fugues ‘Homage à Marcel Dupré. They are very much of the sound world of the musician whom they honour and demand an organist of Jeremy Filsell’s skill to execute them – which he does brilliantly.
THE HARROGATE HARRISON
David Halls plays the Harrison & Harrison Organ of St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate · Priory PRCD 1114
For this disc, David Halls, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral since 2005, returns to St Wilfrid’s Harrogate, where he was Assistant Organist as a boy. The Harrison & Harrison organ was built in 1928 and is described in the CD booklet as ‘a solid, three-manual organ, built in the conservative style of its day’. Distinctively of its period in tone, David Halls nevertheless presents a programme that embraces a range of composers: Charpentier (Prelude to the Te Deum, showcasing a Tuba that is very un-French and very un-Baroque!), Ernest Farrar (two pieces, both of which fit this organ like a glove), Rheinberger (Sonata no. 6 in E flat minor), Flor Peeters, Bach (Prelude and Fugue in B minor), Jesus Guridi (1886–1961), and the performer himself. David Halls’s clean, tasteful playing is exemplified by his interpretation of the Bach Prelude & Fugue, which is everything it should be on this kind of organ. The performer’s own Sound the trumpet which completes the programme is a melodically and harmonically attractive piece of great rhythmic vitality – most enjoyable!
THE USHER HALL ORGAN VOL II
John Kitchen plays the organ of the Usher Hall, Edinburgh · Delphian DCD34132
John Kitchen’s first recording on the refurbished Norman & Beard organ in the Usher Hall was made in 2004. Remastered in 2009, Sunday by Sunday reviewed it then, describing the contents as a ‘town hall programme’ complete with transcriptions of orchestral favourites. This second volume continues the pattern, with Jeremy Cull’s transcription of Hamish MacCunn’s The land of the mountain and the flood. Again, the organ’s Carillon is featured, this time prompting the inclusion of a number of works concerned with bells, starting with Cecilia McDowall’s Church bells beyond the stars (a refreshing, rhythmic toccata inspired by George Herbert) and including S.S. Wesley’s Holsworthy Church Bells and Bernard Rose’s Chimes. The big work to conclude is J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582, preceded by three of the five movements of Widor’s fifth Symphony. Christopher Maxim’s
Toccata Nuptiale, receiving its third commercial recording, delightfully approaches ‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do’ as though it were the melody of a French organ toccata. Clifton Hughes has written a set of Dance Variations on ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ with tango, waltzes, hornpipe and a rock and roll treatment that we are told is now an annual request by Usher Hall audiences, and one can hear why. John Kitchen plays with flamboyant and confident virtuosity.
CHRISTMAS FROM HEREFORD
Hereford Cathedral Choir / Peter Dyke (organ) / Geriant Bowen · Regent REGCD388
The programme on this excellent disc is divided into Advent, Christmas and Epiphany sections. It features a well chosen balance of the sort of seasonal music that everyone knows, choral favourites that will be familiar to choristers and enthusiasts, and also some compositions that might be rather less familiar, even to the more expert listener.
The best-known items include O little town of Bethlehem; O come, all ye faithful;and Hark! the herald angels sing. Among the choral favourites are The truth sent from above; Poston’s Jesus Christ the apple tree; Mathias’s Sir Christèmas; Mendelssohn’s Frolocket, ihr Völker auf Erden; Peter Wishart’s splendid Alleluya, a new work is come on hand; H.C. Stewart’s On this day earth shall ring; Howells’s Here is the little door and Warlock’s Bethlehem Down. The rarer items include Ledger’s Adam lay ybounden; two pieces by Richard Lloyd (recorded for the first time); and organist Peter Dyke’s quirky-but-catchy Three Kings. A mark of the quality of the singing of the choir is the performance of Paul Manz’s E’en so Lord Jesus, quickly come. This is a disc guaranteed to give much pleasure to the listener.
FOLLOW THE STAR: Carols for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany
Wakefield Cathedral Choir / Simon Earl & Daniel Justin (organ) / Thomas Moore · Herald HAVPCD 370
The boys and girls are the stars of this recording – though that is not to diminish the fine singing of the lay clerks, or the colourful organ accompaniments and solos. The sleeve notes state that this CD ‘seeks to bring to public attention some of the lesser known and unusual compositions and arrangements of the Christmas repertoire, whilst including favourite melodies every listener will enjoy’. Paul Trepte’s arrangement of People look East encapsulates this aim in a single piece. It is a highly imaginative treatment of the familiar melody, published by the RSCM – well worth buying
Rutter’s What sweeter music is sung with sensitivity; and John Gardner’s Tomorrow shall be my dancing day is rendered nimbly – complete with the percussion parts. The performance of Poulenc’s gorgeous but unforgiving Videntes stellam is especially notable. Appropriately, a piece by Kenneth Leighton (who was a boy chorister at Wakefield Cathedral) is included in the programme: O leave your sheep is a delightful piece that deserves to be better known. A warmly recommended disc.
The Choir of Chichester Cathedral / Timothy Ravalde (organ) / Sarah Baldock · Herald HAVPCD 379
The Advent ‘O’ Antiphons (sung in English) form the spine of the programme on this first-rate recording. The pieces that are placed around the antiphons are a fine balance of old and new. Patrick Gowers’s Ad te levavi has a haunting beauty. The music by Gibbons that is nowadays usually sung to the words O thou the central orb is a very welcome inclusion. Britten’s wonderful Hymn to the Virgin needs no introduction, but David Bevan’s Magnificat Octavi toni will probably not be familiar. Choral sections alternate with the plainsong, reflecting the composer’s expertise in the music of the Renaissance masters.
Another highlight of a disc that is of a consistently excellent standard is an ethereal performance of Joubert’s There is no rose. Mention must also be made of the various organ solos that enrich the programme yet further. The only aspect that some listeners might find not to their tastes is the rather particular way some vowels are pronounced (‘Come, thou long-expected Jesoos... From our fears and sins release oos’) – but one must accept that this is part and parcel of these polished performances. A very highly recommended release.
CHRISTMAS FROM BATH
The Choir of Bath Abbey / Marcus Sealy (organ) / Peter King · Regent REGCD 390
This disc is another excellent compilation of the old and the new. The boy trebles, girl trebles and men are all in fine voice and the organ sounds glorious – including its Cymbelstern and Glockenspiel! Pieces by Howard Skempton (Adam lay ybounden and There is no rose) are particular highlights and Malcolm Archer’s A little child there is yborn is tremendous fun – and irrepressibly jolly. Richard Shepherd’s A stable lamp is lighted is an interesting essay in Victoriana: it is affecting without being sugary. Thomas Hewitt Jones’s What child it this? is a melodically elegant setting. More contemporary in language, but no less accessible to the general listener is Gabriel Jackson’s setting of G.K. Chesterton’s poem The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap.
While the old favourites in the programme (Once in royal; It came upon the midnight clear; Unto us is born a son; Ding dong! merrily on high; God rest you merry, gentlemen; Good King Wenceslas, etc.) are likely to be responsible for most of the sales of this CD, there is much to delight the connoisseur. This disc deserves to sell out very quickly.
MIDWINTER: A Christmas Celebration
St Mary’s Cathedral Choir, Glasgow / Geoffrey Wollatt (organ) / Frikki Walker · OxRecs Digital OXCD-111
St Mary’s Cathedral is proud of its music tradition which embraces a more eclectic selection of styles than other cathedrals perhaps do. A reflection of this is found in the pieces in the programme that are accompanied on the piano, including the first two tracks: Bob Chilcott’s Mid-winter and John Gardner’s Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. The fresh, unpretentious sound of the voices suits these pieces wonderfully well.
The organ is not neglected, however, and puts in some solo appearances (Ireland’s The Holy Boy, Bach’s chorale prelude on ‘In dulci jubilo’ BVW 729 and, concluding the disc, John Cook’s Paean on ‘Divinum Mysterium’), as well as accompanying the traditional ‘congregational’ carols and Mack Willberg’s arrangement of Ding dong! merrily on high. Other choral pieces include Mendelssohn’s Frolocket, ihr Völker auf Erden; Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium; Paul Manz’s E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come; Sweelinck’s Hodie Christus natus est; and a rollicking west gallery carol, Hail! Happy morn. Recommended to anyone looking for a CD that has plenty of the familiar, but is also that little bit different.
AND COMES THE DAY: Carols and Antiphons for Advent
The Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge / The Queens’ Chapel Players / Silas Wollston · Orchid Classics ORC 100027
This is perhaps the most ‘highbrow’ of the seasonal discs reviewed here, since it contains neither ‘congregational’ hymns nor pieces from the more populist end of the repertoire. The singing is clear, nicely balanced and expressive. The programme contains many pieces that will be familiar to – and much loved by – a wide audience, including There is no Rose (Joubert), Adam lay ybounden (Ord), the Matin responsory (adapted from Palestrina), A hymn to the Virgin (Britten), All this time (Walton), A spotless rose (Howells), Bethlehem Down (Warlock) and Benedicamus Domino (Warlock). But there are less familiar pieces, too, both ancient and modern: the Advent Prose opens the disc, followed by deeply expressive settings of the Advent Antiphons by Bob Chilcott (sung in Latin). Pieces by Charpentier, Pärt and Praetorius add to the delightful variety.
Conductor Silas Wollston also provides a composition of his own: I saw a sweet and seemly sight, a setting of an anonymous 15th-century text. This is a piece that cathedral choirs should take up! All in all, this disc is a joy from beginning to end and is particularly commended to those who like to take their Advent listening without ‘sweeteners’.
HODIE! Contemporary Christmas Carols
The Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir / Oliver Hancock (organ/piano) / Sam Gladstone · Convivium Records CR024
Music is clearly an important part of the life of The Portsmouth Grammar School, given the standards of performance achieved on this disc – one could be listening to a cathedral choir. Indeed, it is no surprise that several members also sing in Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and Cantate, the Cathedral Youth Choir. While there are occasions when the youth of the tenors and basses is betrayed (and their youthful timbres are no bad thing!), the maturity of the sound that they produce is impressive and a testimony to the quality of the training that the pupils receive.
With music by (among others) Tarik O’Regan (Ecce puer), Eric Whitacre (Lux aurumque), Paul Edwards (No small wonder), Bob Chilcott (O little town), Will Todd (My Lord has come), Thomas Hewitt Jones (In the bleak midwinter), Richard Rodney Bennett (Coventry Carol), Malcolm Archer (Angels, from the realms of glory), and Alexander L’Estrange (Hodie!), the repertoire is of a standard that a cathedral or adult chamber choir would be proud to programme. The quality of the music-making on this disc is genuinely impressive.
THE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM
The London Oratory School Schola / London Oratory Brass / Tom Little (organ) / Lee Ward · www.london-oratory.org/schola-cantorium/147.html
As well as enjoyable singing and an attractive programme, this disc boasts The London Oratory Brass, who pack a real punch in the ‘congregational’ carols, bringing tingles that must be even more thrilling when heard live. Other items include E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come (Paul Manz), Adam lay ybounden (Matthew Martin – a very atmospheric piece, much more ambitious than Ord’s famous setting), What sweeter music (Rutter), The little road to Bethlehem (Head, in the composer’s own arrangement for tenors and basses), Tomorrow shall be my dancing day (Gardner), and I sing of a maiden (Hadley).
The Schola sings regularly at the Brompton Oratory, as well as daily in the school chapel, at concerts, on tour and for recordings. What fantastic musical opportunities the London Oratory School (which, incidentally, is a state school) gives to its boys! This disc is definitely worth hearing.
Daniel Moult plays the Hill organ of Arundel Cathedral · Regent REGCD434
It is surprising that this is the first solo recording of the restored William Hill organ at Arundel. The instrument sounds at its best perhaps with its choruses and reeds, especially in the reverberant acoustic, well demonstrated in music by Handel (W.T. Best arrangement), Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Stanford and Saint-Saëns. But Daniel Moult also shows his virtuosity in three more recent pieces which should attract extra purchasers for this disc: Derek Bourgeois’s Variations on a theme by Herbert Howells, Paul Patterson’s Brumba (a rumba written for Birmingham Town Hall) and Graham Fitkin’s Wedding, written for a friend’s wedding and driving to an exhilarating climax.
THE ENGLISH CATHEDRAL SERIES Vol XVII
Christopher Allsop plays the new Kenneth Tickell organ of Worcester Cathedral · Regent REGCD449
Elsewhere in this CMQ, William McVicker refers to the recent untimely death of Kenneth Tickell. Here is a recording of Tickell’s 2008 Quire organ at Worcester for which Christopher Allsop has chosen a quirky, idiosyncratic programme that, in its colourful way, splendidly matches the instrument.
There is music by Hugo Distler, much French music (Tournemire, Alain, Bonnet, Vierne and a transcription of Debussy’s Deuxième Arabesque), English and Welsh music (Somervell, Mathias, Bridge, and, in tribute to two Worcester organists, Donald Hunt’s Tomkins’ Trifle), and two pieces by Shostakovich, the Passacaglia from Katerina Ismailowa and, to conclude, a glorious transcription by Allsop himself of the Festive Overture – a brilliant demonstration of the prowess of organ and organist.
IN AN OLD ABBEY
British Organ Music · Paul Walton plays the organ of Bristol Cathedral · Regent REGCD431
There can be few more appropriate instruments for this collection of lesser-known British 20th-century pieces than the historic Walker organ of Bristol Cathedral. The two most substantial pieces on the CD are both receiving their first recordings: Jeremy Cull’s reconstruction of Elgar’s Second Organ Sonata from the five movements of Elgar’s Severn Suite for brass, and John Cook’s Five Studies in form of a Sonata. They are both, in effect, five-movement Sonatas formed from other pieces. There is music by Sir Walter Alcock (Toccata), Herbert Sumsion (Intermezzo) and Douglas Steele (Arioso). Basil Harwood provides the title track (In an Old Abbey, Op.32). The final track, Prologue, is a marvellous movement from Christopher Palmer’s assembly of pieces from four of William Walton’s WWII film scores, A Wartime Sketchbook, arranged for organ by Robert Gower. Paul Walton sounds very much at home with the romantic character of the music and the organ.
GREAT EUROPEAN ORGANS No. 87
Martyn Rawles plays the organ of Lichfield Cathedral · Priory PRCD 1090
There is similar British and Irish 20th-century repertoire on this disc recorded on Lichfield’s much rebuilt instrument – reworked most recently by Harrison and Harrison with a new Nave organ, and a return of the Choir organ to something approaching its William Hill 1908 specification. The 80 speaking stops provide ample opportunities that Martin Rawles exploits to the full, especially with quieter stops used solo or in combination.
The music, apart from Paul Spicer’s The Land of Lost Content, comprises entirely well-chosen arrangements of mostly-Edwardian orchestral music: Stanford arr. Alcock, Elgar arr. West, Delius arr. Fenby (On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring), Parry arr. Stockmeister, Holst arr. Ley, Elgar arr. Wills (Sospiri) and, to conclude, Brewer’s transcription of Elgar’s 1911 Coronation March that marked the transition to a post-Edwardian era. The organ is now well at home again with repertoire from this period, and with a wide range of tone colours to apply to orchestral transcriptions. This is a very satisfying disc.
CHORAL SINGING AND HEALTHY VOICE PRODUCTION
David M. Howard
Willow Leaf Publishing: 178pp. P/B 9780992621612 £25.00
or £20.00 from www.ypdbooks.com if you quote voucher code CHORAL2
Dr David Howard, organist, choir director and head of electronics at the University of York, has produced a guide for choir trainers, singing teachers and more advanced singers which attempts to bring simple science into the art of singing. The author’s primary career as a teacher of science is evident in his crystal clear explanation of matters physiological.
With cookery books, their glossy covers, shiny paper and full-colour staged photographs of food often give the impression that presentation matters more than substance. This is not the case with Dr Howard’s book. The physiological understanding of vocal technique, its development and its care have advanced considerably in recent years and, whilst there are differences in approach between some vocal tutors, there is more unanimity now than there was even a few decades ago. Much of this modern thinking has been distilled into this volume.
We have many singing text books in the RSCM library, most of which also delve into the interpretation of different styles of music, an area not covered by this book. Howard concentrates on the physical essentials of how the human body (for it is the whole body and not just the throat) creates the best sound possible in a way that is both healthy and enjoyable. Numerous helpful photographs and diagrams are used to explain this.
There are also chapters on how to form a choir, a list of the kind of frequently asked questions that come from singers to choral directors and how to deal with them. I was especially taken with his chapter on pitch and how one can help singers who cannot pitch a note accurately.
All in all, and considering that there have been many good books about singing technique published in the last decade, I would say that none has been better than this.
DEM HIMMEL NAHE: LOOKING UP at organs and ceilings
Dr J. Butz: 64pp. H/B 9783928412170 €18.00
A lack of foreign languages does not hinder enjoyment of this book published in Germany, for the preface is in English, German and French and the remaining 59 pages are full-page photographs.
New Zealander Jenny Setchell will be known to some CMQ readers for her entertaining book of organists’ anecdotes, Organ-isms (incidentally now in an inexpensive Kindle edition). The worldwide recital tours of her concert-organist husband Martin have enabled Jenny to indulge her passion and expertise in photography documenting stunning organs and ceilings. Each photograph depicts an instrument and the ceiling above it. In most cases it is really the ceilings and architecture that catch the eye, wonderful though the instruments may be. The English title ‘Looking Up at Organs and Ceilings’ seems somewhat pedestrian for such marvellous works of art – the French ‘Tuyaux Sonores: Près du ciel’ is much more evocative.
The origin of the book does not imply that all the photographs are of German organs, indeed less than half are, and the sharp-eyed will spot Chester Cathedral on the back cover of the book. Ten further British churches and cathedrals are also included.
A modestly priced book, ideal for a Christmas present.
MEMORIES OF CHOIRS AND CLOISTERS
A. Herbert Brewer ed. John Morehen
Stainer & Bell: 191pp. P/B 9780852499467 £14.99
Many years ago I acquired a copy of this book, published in 1931 by Herbert Brewer’s wife a few after his death, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although not actually revised and assembled by Brewer himself into a formal autobiography, these short reminiscences are close to being just that. Thanks to Stainer & Bell for re-issuing this short volume, now edited with footnotes added by John Morehen about the various people mentioned.
Sir (Alfred) Herbert Brewer was organist of Gloucester Cathedral from 1896 until his death in 1928 and was very active in the Three Choirs Festival where he promoted much new music – sometimes to the consternation of those in charge of the festival finances. Much of this book is concerned with that festival and his involvement. He was a friend of Elgar, many of whose works he transcribed for organ, indeed Elgar even orchestrated Brewer’s own cantata Emmaus for the Three Choirs in 1901. There cannot be many readers who have not heard or sung Brewer in D (which incidentally was also composed for the Three Choirs Festival) but his other music and his transcriptions for organ were rarely heard until recently when concert transcriptions seem to be coming back into fashion.
Brewer never migrated to the London musical scene, unlike many of his contemporaries, but it is clear that, even as a provincial musician, his interaction with major musicians such as Saint-Saëns, Parry, Stanford and Sibelius was both cordial and fruitful. The writing style of Edwardian authors can sometimes seem highly dated, but Brewer seems much less ‘stiff’ than many and this is a good bedtime read. There are two indexes – one general index and another listing the various musical works mentioned throughout the book.
THE RSCM GUIDE TO PLAINCHANT: an introduction to plainsong
Mary Berry and John Rowlands-Pritchard
RSCM: 108pp. P/B G0038 £9.95 (discounts for RSCM members)
Mary Berry’s original publication has remained more or less at my side ever since its publication in 1979 as Plainchant for Everyone. Many church musicians have found it invaluable. It is now reprinted in a much clearer format, not just with a larger page size, but with the original long paragraphs divided up, and the text and music redesigned and reset. Plainsong has never looked more friendly than here. There is discreet updating too, for example in the lists of opportunities to hear chant, purchase it and read about it, as well as in some terminology.
But, just as importantly, the book has doubled in length with a ‘Part Two’ anthology of plainchant from John Rowlands-Pritchard. The chants here include simple liturgical material such as introductions, dialogues and farewells, and straightforward psalms, antiphons and hymns, as well as more complicated examples. So readers of the book can apply Dr Berry’s advice and guidance immediately in church services using material from the second part of the book. As Andrew Reid writes in his introduction about chant, ‘its closeness to text, particularly Biblical text, makes it the ideal vehicle for worship.’
HYMNS AND CAROLS
CHRISTMAS CAROLS: From Village Green to Church Choir
Profile Books: 225pp. P/B 978-1-78125-352-6, printed £9.99, eBook £6.99 www.profilebooks.com
CD available from www.signumrecords.com
Andrew Gant’s name will be familiar to many readers as a former organist, choirmaster and composer of church and organ music. Now a tutor at St Peter’s College, Oxford, he has attempted to unravel the mystery of carols in general and 22 mostly well-known carols in particular, a task many authors have attempted less successfully before. This is not an academic book – there are no footnotes to justify his assertions and certainly I don’t know of any academic books that use the word ‘wonky’ in several places! The conversational narrative style, with its flashes of humour, is engaging yet with an authority that makes the reader confident in the veracity of the history given. Dr Gant clearly has a firm grasp on current musicological research.
The origins of music and text of these carols are explored in depth, with much space devoted to the evolution of these elements into the form that is sung today. For example, our hymn books lead us to believe that Hark, the herald angels sing has a text by Wesley and tune by Mendelssohn, but this conceals the work of others in producing what we know today. The tune of Ding-dong merrily was originally a dance with specific steps marked for each note of the tune. I am not sure how my choir will react to this, but it is an entertaining thought! I liked the pithy paragraphs at the end of each carol chapter, many of which display a balance between humour, cynicism and realism. This book will be an ideal and much-appreciated Christmas present for many church organists and adult choristers.
Signum Records have produced a CD with the same title and graphic design as the book and a pre-production copy of this was included with our review copy. It would appear that this disc is not included automatically with the book and has to be ordered from Signum Records. The CD features 24 carols covering the period from the Annunciation through to the Epiphany. Andrew Gant directs his own choir, Vox Turturis (‘The voice of the turtle’), and most of the arrangements are new – by Gant himself, including an original choir setting of What child is this? Some are traditional settings, such as Charles Wood’s Ding-dong and Adeste fideles sung in Latin throughout. Good King Wenceslas fails to appear but his tune is sung to the Latin Tempus adest floridum. There is much fine singing of these attractive arrangements by this new group, which includes both male and female singers on the top two lines. They certainly do not sing like turtles!
A HOUSE OF PRAISE (Part Two)
Oxford University Press: 376pp. P/B 978-0-19-340377-2, £21.95, www.oup.com
In 2001, at the age of 75, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith published his life’s work of 285 hymn texts all together in the one anthology A House of Praise. In the preface he commented that his hymn writing had produced seven or eight a year and added ‘I hope to continue [writing hymns], if I can, for a few more years.’ Now, 12 years on and at a rate of 12 or 13 a year, we are blessed with another 150 hymns from possibly the greatest hymn-writer of our time. His poetry brings alive the concerns, weaknesses, sadness and joy of the whole human condition in a language which is both relevant to the modern world but which speaks directly to our souls.
This hymn collection does not include music and Dudley-Smith, who claims not to be a musician, relies on advisers for suggesting or writing suitable tunes. In several anthologies of his hymns, reviewed here in CMQ,tunes have been included. Many of these are fine modern tunes, but little known. In this new anthology, anything from one to five tunes are recommended for each text, thus allowing the spirit and theology of the hymns to be disseminated to congregations by using tunes with which they feel comfortable. 58 of the 150 hymns have already been published in hymn books and two texts have been used for anthems.
This book could easily be used as an aid to personal prayer – the trouble is that, even just reading these texts, makes you want to sing.
HOW TO USE VOICE FOR LIFE: A comprehensive guide to the Voice for Life scheme for choir trainers and directors
Anthony Marks with additional material by Colin Davey
RSCM: 232pp. P/B F0121 £25.00 (affiliates £18.75)
The subtitle says it all – or at least, much of it! This is the essential guide to how to use the Voice for Life scheme with its now considerable range of resources with workbooks, charts, the recent Guide to Musicianship and more. It also makes sense of the relation between the five Levels (White, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow) and the three Awards (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and charts the way the five Modules (A to E) weave their way through these. Written for choir trainers and choir directors, it painstakingly works through each element of each module at each level, always enriched with practical tips and suggestions and discussion of real examples of singers’ answers.
The book, if used properly and read and thought about before working on the relevant topic, will give support and confidence to the least experienced choir trainer, and will still have lots of original ideas for more qualified ones. It turns what can seem a daunting choir-training scheme into a logical and easy-to-follow progression. Comprehensive, yes, and enlightening.
HEAVENLY HARMONY: Organs and Organists of Exeter Cathedral
Malcolm Walker and David Davies
Impress Books: 197pp. P/B 978-1-907605-65-9 £25.00
Restoration of the 350-year-old organ in Exeter Cathedral was completed at the end of 2014; this book tells the story of the instruments and musicians at the cathedral from 1284.
The authors, Malcolm Walker, Exeter Cathedral tour-guide and former academic meteorologist at Cardiff University, and David Davies, assistant cathedral director of music, have produced a remarkable book, scholarly and yet readable. Despite a dearth of old photographs, there is plenty of interesting history to fill the text, in addition to all the technical organ information. The instrument has certainly had its ups and downs over the years, more so than many other cathedrals. Sections describing defects in the organ are to be expected, but here we also hear about defective organists! One such in later years was S.S. Wesley who was described by the chapter clerk as ‘the most to be avoided man I ever met with’. Happily relationships between cathedral musicians and clergy are now good and there are first-rate choirs, both boys and girls.
The extensive glossary suggests that this book has also been aimed at the tourist market and we should wish them well in this, for the book is to be highly recommended.
MUSIC AS PRAYER: The Theology and Practice of Church Music
Thomas H. Troeger
Oxford University Press: 89 pp. H/B 978-0-19-933008-9 £13.85
When the dust jacket reports that ‘music can be an act of prayer, a way of sensing the irrepressible resilience of the divine vitalities’ and given the subtitle, one might think that this is a deeply philosophical theological treatise. Far from it, for it is a delightful series of meditations, ideal for the bedside and an inspiration for private personal prayer, written in everyday language and often linked to Bible references.
The Revd Thomas Troeger, formerly Chaplain to the American Guild of Organists, contributed a monthly column to the AGO magazine The American Organist from 2008 to 2012. This book is a collection of these offerings and, whilst many of the meditations are organist related, the anecdotes and spiritual connections he makes with music, musicianship and worship are valid for all whose emotions respond to the power of music. With around 40 meditations in 80 pages, they are short and easily digested. Troeger is a professor at the School of Theology in Denver and, though not an organist himself, he makes many pertinent observations on the work of organists and choirs based on his own experience; indeed it is the personal insights which make this book particularly attractive. As one would expect from a respected author and hymn-writer, his prose is a delight to read and I can whole-heartedly recommend this book.
THE HAARLEM ESSAYS: Celebrating Fifty International Organ Festivals
ed. Paul Peeters
Dr J. Butz 472 pp. H/B 978-3-928412-15-5 £32.50
Essays about a Dutch organ competition from a German publisher might make you wonder ‘What is in this for me, a British organist?’ Well, the answer is – a great deal. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the book is in English. and secondly there is a wealth of information about 20th-century, premier-league organists and organ composition, together with a host of newly published photographs of both people and instruments. A 78-minute CD of competition-winning improvisations by Piet Kee, André Isoir, Hans Haselböck and others is also included.
The improvisation competition is at the heart of the Haarlem International Organ Festival, which has just passed its 50th jubilee year, and these essays celebrate that fact. The first section of the book is devoted to Haarlem – the place, the churches, the organs and the development of the festivals. The central section contains essays by various festival observers, including one fascinating interview with a famous stop-puller. Professional registration assistants are not common in the UK but are much needed on continental organs. Stop-pulling for a performer who is improvising requires a degree of knowledge of the instrument and anticipation which is frankly awesome.
Part two of the book looks at traditional repertoire from Byrd, Bach, Reger and Messiaen and links this to improvisational techniques.
There has never been a UK winner of this competition, which has always been dominated by Dutch, German and French organists. It is interesting to note that the RSCM’s very own Lionel Dakers was a finalist in the first competition in 1951 whilst he was assistant organist at St George’s, Windsor.
This is a beautifully produced book containing much of interest to organists and organ enthusiasts. I suspect it has been heavily subsidized by the various organ builders who seem to have advertisements in the back. The CD alone is worth £15; spend a little more and you have the book as well.
HANDEL’S MESSIAH: A RHETORICAL GUIDE
Corda Music Publication 217 pp. P/B 978-0-9528220-5-9 £30.00
Judy Tarling has spent her life as performer and teacher making historical style come alive, and especially through the application of classical Greek and Roman theories of rhetoric and oratory that were still studied in 17th and 18th centuries. Her application of such ideas is not confined to music and text: as a garden historian, her next book will be entitled Gardens of eloquence! She assembled her historical and musical research in an already highly-influential 2004 publication, The Weapons of Rhetoric, a Guide for Musicians and Audiences. Now she directs this approach at one particular work, Messiah, that, because of its text and music, and not least the documentation of its assembly, composition and reception, is particularly susceptible to such analysis.
As well as ideas from classical antiquity, Tarling applies to Messiah 16th and 17th-century texts written to help people to understand the Bible within a Protestant tradition. After a rhetorical analysis of Jennens’s biblical text, the music is examined for word-painting, repetition, questions and exclamations and other such devices before moving to a consideration of how performers can apply rhetorical techniques to their singing and playing. Having taken apart text and music and addressed the performer, Tarling considers the audience, the historically-informed listener, and looks at how Messiah was received within the context of contemporary ideas of ‘the sublime’.
This is not an easy book. It is densely written and with innumerable music examples (mostly of full score) which one wishes had been set to a wider margin and with a bigger stave size. But it is well worth the effort to read. The better one thinks one knows Messiah already, the greater the insights that are offered by this remarkable study.
GOD OF OUR FATHERS, WHOSE ALMIGHTY HAND [E]
SATB (with divisi) and keyboard
Oxford 978-0-19-338637-2 £2.20
LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING [E/M]
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS576 £1.75
CHRIST WHOSE GLORY FILLS THE SKIES [E/M]
SATB and organ
Paraclete Press SKU1519 $1.70
BLEST ARE THE PURE IN HEART [E]
SATB and organ
Paraclete Press SKU1515 $1.70
THE KING OF LOVE [E]
SATB and piano
Paraclete Press SKU153 $2.20
GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN [E]
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS579 £1.75
Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of George Warren’s 19th-century American hymn for patriotic occasions, God of our Fathers, is marked ‘with conviction, growing from verse to verse’, starting with tenors and basses in unison, then other verses in different keys, and ending with full eight-part choir. Written for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this is ‘heart on your sleeve’ music with obligatory triplets and trumpet fanfares in the accompaniment.
In each of the other anthems, the composer has written his own melody for the first verse of the hymn, and then varied the theme in subsequent verses. The most interesting are by David Houlder (Love divine, all loves excelling) and David Halls (Christ whose glory fills the skies). Using the standard compositional pattern for a three-verse hymn-anthem (verse one unison, verse two harmony and verse three unison and descant), both composers demonstrate creativity in their settings. These two for me are the pick of the bunch: well written and attractive.
David Barton’s settings are very easy and written in a lighter style. Blest are the pure in heart employs a pretty melody but the theme for The King of Love lacks invention. Ian Brentnall’s God be with you till we meet again is very straightforward within a limited vocal range. As an alternative to teaching your choir a ‘hymn-anthem’ such as these, you might try performing a hymn really beautifully in its traditional hymn book setting.
SONG OF CREATION [M/D]
Oxford 978-0-19-340723-7 £1.60
PRAISE THE LORD [M/D]
Paraclete Press SKU1506 $2.20
BEHOLD, HOW GOOD AND JOYFUL [E/M]
Paraclete Press SKU1550 $1.70
Of these three unaccompanied anthems, for effective interpretation those by Howard Helvey and David Halls need choirs with excellent intonation and sure rhythmic precision. Song of Creation (text from the US Book of Common Prayer 1979) is the more straightforward of the two, written almost entirely in four parts and with a firm tonal centre. It is marked ‘Allegro con moto’ and time signatures change frequently. There is lots of interest within these 65 bars and nimble choirs will enjoy the challenge.
In similar style, marked ‘Vivace e energico’ but needing more rehearsal time, is Praise the Lord (with text from Psalm 113). For much of the piece, the tenors and basses provide an ostinato with their insistent rhythm. There are huge dynamic variations; sopranos and altos each divide. As well as a very secure rhythmic foundation, choirs need a sure sense of pitch. Commissioned for a secular chamber choir, this a cappella anthem will provide an exuberant end to a concert.
Firmly rooted in E flat major is Robert Lehman’s gentle and chordal setting of the text ‘Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity.’ This is straightforward and effective.
BELOVED, LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER [M]
SATB and organ
Banks Music ECS577 £1.75
HYMNS OF GLORY [M]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-338707-2 £2.20
GIVE ME MY SCALLOP-SHELL OF QUIET [M]
SATB and organ
Encore Publications £2.50
These three anthems all have interesting texts. Ian Brentnall’s Beloved, let us love one another was written for a wedding and the biblical texts chosen are most appropriate, although also suitable for general use. This is a useful anthem for parish choirs looking for something appropriate to sing at weddings.
The anthem Hymns of Glory was commissioned to commemorate a particular music ministry. The text by Thomas Troeger I found more interesting than its musical setting: ‘May the God whose music sounded as you led our church and choir, / Till we knew we were surrounded by the Spirit’s word and fire, / Keep singing in your heart as a witness to Christ’s story / And in other souls impart hymns of glory, glory, glory.’
Andrew Millington, who recently retired as Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, has set a text by Sir Walter Raleigh suitable for the theme of pilgrimage. This beautiful text is given a masterful setting which was composed for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Exeter on her Golden Jubilee tour in 2002. Give me my scallop-shell of quiet is an attractive piece that should enhance many choirs’ repertoires.
LIGHT LOOKED DOWN [M]
SATB and organ
Paraclete Press PPM01538 $3.10
FOR HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE OVER THEE [M]
ed. Patrick Russill
Church Music Society CMSR136 £2.60
HOLY IS THE TRUE LIGHT [D]
SATB with divisi
Oxford NH149 £1.85
TRULY I TELL YOU [M]
SATB with divisi, and organ
Almost too late to cover for this Christmas, choirs still able to programme it will find that Philip Moore’s extended anthem, Light looked down, has much to recommend in it. The music is atmospheric and with an intriguing juxtaposition of E flat major and E minor. The arpeggio-based vocal lines are highly singable and the organ part colourful. The text is the poem attributed to Laurence Housman starting ‘Light looked down and beheld Darkness’ that ends ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’, which in this anthem leads into the remainder of John 1.14. It is not too difficult and would make a considerable impact at a Christmas service.
We may all know Mendelssohn’s ever-popular chorus from Elijah, but not that ‘For he shall give his angels charge over thee’ derives from an eight-part unaccompanied motet that the composer wrote two years before Elijah. Patrick Russill has fitted Bartholomew’s English text to Mendelssohn’s original music, and added some editorial markings and corrections to make an effective English-language anthem.
G.H. Palmer’s text, Holy is the true light, is familiar in the setting by William Harris. Like Harris, Gabriel Jackson starts quietly and gently in four parts, but the music increases in texture (with rich clusters), volume, rhythmic drive and complexity to reach a thrilling climax on ‘rejoice with gladness’ – music which seems then to carry on ‘evermore’, undimmed but gradually receding into the distance until the opening reappears transformed as an ‘alleluia’. It is a profound and satisfying piece.
Truly I tell you is a four-minute, useful church anthem that is not too difficult, from the current Master of the Queen’s Music. Verses from Psalms 8 and 34 frame Mark 10.15 ‘Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ Much of the four-part writing doubles sopranos with tenors and altos with basses, making it easier to learn, but there is never a sense of writing to make it easy – the music feels naturally conceived that way. A good organist will make the playful organ part sparkle. Highly recommended.
JOHN GOSS: COMPLETE ANTHEMS
ed. Iain Quinn
A-R Editions, Inc: 493pp. P/B 978-0-89579-817-6 $480.00
A paperback costing just over £300 is not perhaps something that many readers of Sunday by Sunday will consider, but read on!
Firstly one should say that this is an important project, the assembly of all John Goss’s anthems that are currently known to have survived – both the 38 substantial works and the nine single-page anthems that he contributed to hymn books and anthem anthologies. Secondly, while this is not itself a performing edition (almost twice the weight of the New Church Anthem Book, let alone the price!), modern technology allows copies of single anthems to be provided to choirs as digital downloads or as printed copies at very reasonable rates. For example, a printed copy of Goss’s The Wilderness at 24 pages costs only $3.00. Of course there is postage which may be considerable for some readers, but the most important achievement is that all these anthems are now available once again.
The book itself is a high quality production with the obligatory short biography of the composer, an assessment of his music, specifications of some organs familiar to Goss and a few pages of photographs of early printings and autograph scores.
JAMES WHITBOURN: THE CHORAL COLLECTION [mostly M or D]
15 anthems for SATB (with divisi) with and without organ
Chester Music CH83578 £9.95
The name of James Whitbourn may not yet be familiar to most readers of Sunday by Sunday, but you will almost certainly have heard his compositions. The 2001 TV series Son of God had 90 minutes of his music and since then Whitbourn has produced music for many programmes for the BBC’s Religion and Ethics Department, not to mention the introduction to all the Royal Opera House cinema screenings. One piece in this choral collection, Eternal rest, derives from music for the broadcast of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Whitbourn’s publishers have decided that it is time to honour the composer with an anthology, and with good reason. Although all the music here was written within just 15 years, there is a great variety of texts and musical approaches to them. South African prayers (one by Desmond Tutu) jostle with pieces for King’s College, Cambridge. Two carols have words by Robert Tear, and there is also a setting of Newman’s ‘O Lord, support us all the day long’. If one misses a feeling of a single, well-defined and recognizable musical personality, that stems in part from Whitbourn’s immersion in the words and respect for their own character. There are African features in the African settings, carol melodies in A Christmas Gloria, a faithfulness to the spirit of Praetorius in an elaboration of ‘A great and mighty wonder’ and so on. The words inspire the music, which is as it should be with music for the church. A particularly effective example is the way the inclusion of the Easter verse in Were you there? (‘… when he rose up from the grave’) transforms the music of the spiritual. This is certainly a volume that should be on the shelves of choir directors interested in broadening their horizons.
THE NEW NOVELLO BOOK OF SHORT & EASY ANTHEMS FOR UPPER VOICES [E/M]
ed. David Hill
Upper voices, with and without keyboard
Novello NOV295031 £9.95
Following his companion volume of short and easy anthems for SATB choirs, David Hill has here selected and edited 28 pieces for upper-voice choirs. As one would expect, this is a useful and practical collection of pieces of musical worth. It will be particularly good for cathedrals and churches where upper-voice choirs sing services, and for schools with treble voice choirs.
Although the title says ‘anthems’, the compilation includes a Latin Mass setting by Rupert Jeffcoat and music for evensong: Matthew Owens’s effective Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to plainsong with faux bourdons, and David Terry’s set of 1662 Preces and Responses.
There are anthems appropriate for church festivals and general use. It is good to have the lovely Advent Responsory in three parts by Barry Rose who has also contributed a simple arrangement in two parts of John Tavener’s Lord’s Prayer. For Christmas there is the delightful Dormouse’s Carol by Elizabeth Poston and an Aztec carol in the Nahuatl language, fortunately with pronunciation guide. The Easter Troparion of the Eastern Orthodox Church is given pronunciation guides for the Russian and Greek texts. Useful non-singing translations are included for all the pieces in Latin.
Peter Miller has set to music short sections of the communion service, Lord I am not worthy (published by RSCM) and Draw near with faith, both included here, providing opportunities for choirs to enhance the liturgy chorally in different ways.
Styles in this collection are varied: there are several pieces by 21st-century composers whose ‘day job’ is (or was) working with upper-voice choirs, including Philip Moore, Keith Roberts, James Davy and Matthew Owens. They all write from a very practical basis, knowing what can be taught quickly and what is effective. Beautiful, although not well-known, anthems by William Byrd, Marcel Dupré, Franz Liszt and Lennox Berkeley also find a place. James Whitbourn has written an effective setting of Desmond Tutu’s prayer Goodness is stronger than evil and Jonathan Wikeley has contributed a sensitive setting of This is a thin place.
David Hill writes in his introduction that this collection hopes to convince that short and easy does not mean mundane or over-familiar. He has surely succeeded here, offering a collection of church music that is worthy, interesting, effective and can be learned quickly. It is wholeheartedly recommended!
YOUNG VOICES FESTIVAL
ACT JUSTLY, LOVE MERCY, WALK HUMBLY [E]
RSCM S0165 £25.00 (affiliates £18.75)
The format of RSCM Young Voices Festival publications is well established, offering an inspiring service for upper or equal voices, but also a wide range of materials that school, church and community choirs may use flexibly in services, concerts and assemblies. The front cover gives a subtitle: ‘A festival service for young voices celebrating the Justice of God’. The trigger may be the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, but the range is wide and expressed in three sections, ‘The Free Society’, ‘The Freedom to Worship’ and ‘The Promise of Freedom’, sandwiched between ‘Gathering to Worship God’ and ‘Sending out’. Anthems include Ian Wicks’s Let justice roll like a river (words by Marty Haugen), Parry’s He delivereth the poor with as an alternative the Bernadette Farrell / Owen Alstott version of the Magnificat, and John Bell’s setting of Desmond Tutu’s Goodness is stronger than evil. Add five hymns, a gathering song (the African-American spiritual Freedom is coming), readings from the Bible and from Magna Carta, and prayers, and this becomes an anthology of material with many uses.
The book contains 43 pages of conductor’s score followed by 58 pages of singers’ music that may photocopied. So you only need to buy one copy. But purchase of that copy also gives you a password that enables you to download and open the same singers’ music pages if you prefer them as a PDF, along with the readings, performance tracks of all ten pieces, backing tracks of all but the unaccompanied piece, training notes and an order of service. There is such abundance of material that is unlocked by buying the one copy that it is difficult to think of any reason not to rush to the RSCM online shop and do so.
IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER [M]
SA and organ
Novello NOV294129 £2.75
SA (optional men) and piano
Novello NOV293286 £2.75
WE WERE THERE [M]
SSA and piano
Chester Music SRO100079 £2.95
John Joubert’s haunting setting of Rossetti’s poem was commissioned for the choir of Merton College, Oxford and is for two-part choir and organ. The accompaniment explores interesting tonalities, and the choir needs a secure sense of pitch. The commission was to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the founding of the college – presumably referenced through the frequent use of organum in the vocal parts.
Patapan was a winner in a carol competition and is an enjoyable romp in 6/8 time but with the chorus in 5/4. Written for two-part choir (rather low-pitched for children singing soprano and alto) with an optional part for men, the performance will be greatly enhanced by including the optional flute and snare drum parts.
With text by Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author, and music by Rachel Portman, perhaps best known for her movie scores, We were there was commissioned by the Liverpool Philharmonic in 2014 to celebrate its 175th anniversary. The divisi is not difficult and choirs will enjoy this attractive and effective piece for SSAA choir with piano accompaniment.
‘MAKING MUSIC’ CAROLS
CAROLS FOR EVERYONE: CARNEGIE TRUST CAROL COLLECTION [M]
Upper voices, piano and optional adult choir
Novello NOV293810 £7.95
Carols for Everyone is a collection of seven ‘festive pieces’ for children’s and adult choirs singing together. The project was supported by Making Music and the Carnegie UK Trust, with the aim of bringing children and adults together in performance. Seven distinguished composers – Paul Mealor, Thea Musgrave, Christopher Robinson, John Duggan, James Whitbourn, Kenneth Hesketh and Richard Allain – have each contributed an arrangement of a carol or Christmas song.
In addition to their arrangements for children and adults, Thea Musgrave has provided a children’s choir version of Adam lay y-bounden (using the melody in the Oxford Book of Carols arranged by Peter Warlock) for solo or semi-chorus and two-part choir; Christopher Robinson has also made a two-part, straightforward version of the Basque noel, The Infant King. Most arrangements in this collection require a reasonably competent children’s choir to sing in two parts and maintain its line independently of the SATB choir. If you have the opportunity of bringing together a children’s choir with an adult choir for a Christmas concert, this is well worth your perusal. The arrangement of Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer will almost certainly bring the house down.
IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER [M/D]
Acuta Music 978-1-873690-15-4 £1.60
DANCE AND SING (IL EST NÉ) [M]
arr. Ryan Murphy
SATB and piano
Oxford X564 £2.20
Novello NOV293964 £1.75
LET CHRISTIANS ALL WITH JOYFUL MIRTH [E/M]
SATB and organ
Novello NOV293997 £2.75
YouTube has value in assessing music. There is a fine performance of Esther Vann’s In the bleak mid-winter online, sung by the Hereford Cathedral Voluntary Choir to whom the music is dedicated. This setting paints Christina Rossetti’s words beautifully and a competent unaccompanied SATB choir where each vocal part divides would enjoy it. On YouTube too you can hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Dance and Sing. This is an attractive arrangement of Il est né, le divin enfant. The score has piano accompaniment, although orchestral parts are available through the publisher. Much of the interest is in the orchestral accompaniment.
James Burton has composed a gentle and beautiful version of the carol Balulalow, which contrasts well with Owain Park’s exuberant setting of Let Christians all with joyful mirth, the winner of a 2012 carol composition competition. With accessible, straightforward harmonies, but underpinned by an accompaniment alternating 6/8 and 3/4 time, this is an arrangement that will enliven any choir’s Christmas celebration.
IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER [E]
A LITTLE CHILD THERE IS YBORN [M]
SATB and organ
Fagus-music.com £2.00 each
TOMORROW SHALL BE MY DANCING DAY [E]
SATB and organ
Vernon Hoyle’s In the bleak mid-winter is also available to assess on YouTube (search for ‘Cantus sing “In the bleak mid-winter” at Canterbury Cathedral’ as the name of the composer is not immediately clear). There are shades of Walford Davies which will be welcomed by many. Very different is the same composer’s A little child there is yborn where the words are set to music that appropriately has the feeling of a medieval dance. There are a few rising intervals that will cause problems on the first sing-through, but, once learnt, this would be a carol much enjoyed by singers and congregation.
Geoffrey Atkinson arranges the traditional ‘dancing day’ tune in music marked ‘With a gentle lilt’. It is a more reflective setting than many. I particularly liked the switch from G major to E minor for the last verse, making the final (G major) refrain of ‘Sing O my love’ all the more joyful.
James L. Montgomery
SIR DAVID WILLCOCKS
A CELEBRATION IN CAROLS [mostly M]
18 carols for mixed voices
Oxford 978-0-19-340501-1 £9.95
This is a wonderful tribute to Sir David on his 95th birthday. The scores of 15 of his classic carols are joined by one each from John Rutter, Jonathan Willcocks and Bob Chilcott. In his foreword, Rutter describes how his school friend, John Tavener, introduced him to the original Carols for Choirs in 1961. David Willcocks’s own carols are ordered chronologically from Away in a manger (Carols for Choirs 1) to Jingle Bells (100 Carols for Choirs), followed by three more recent ones – Lullay, my liking (2006), High Word of God, eternal light (2008) and Starry night (2004). Lullay, my liking was written for John Rutter ‘on his 60th birthday’, who responds by including his own Rejoice and sing! ‘in celebration of the 95th birthday of Sir David Willcocks’. One cannot help being moved by Jonathan Willcocks’s Nowell, nowell! ‘for David, with love and admiration’ and by Bob Chilcott’s There is no rose dying away into the gentlest repetition of ‘transeamus’ – ‘let us follow’ to conclude the volume.
This handsomely produced book, with a chocolate box King’s College in snow on the front and a warmly smiling Sir David on the back, allows us all to share in its affectionate birthday tribute.
MAGNIFICAT & NUNC DIMITTIS [D]
SECOND SERVICE (MAGNIFICAT & NUNC DIMITTIS) [D]
SATB and organ
Chester SRO100070 & SRO10076 £3.50 & £3.95
CHRISTIANA CANTICLES [M]
SATB (opt. bar solo) and organ
Oxford X543 £2.90
Muhly’s first setting, made in 2004 for the choirs of Clare and Girton Colleges, Cambridge dances through the words with a light touch. It is difficult, but sung by a good choir with precision and commitment (and plenty of rehearsal time) would delight an evensong congregation. The second setting, written in 2014, is more ambitious and serious in intention and for this reviewer less successful as a liturgical piece. A joint commission, it was first performed by the choir of Christ Church, Christiana Hundred in the USA with organ accompaniment, and performed a week later in concert in Liverpool Cathedral with orchestral accompaniment (Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko) in which context it made considerable impact.
John Rutter’s Christiana Canticles were also written for the choir of Christ Church, Christiana Hundred, a professional choir, but Rutter has written a piece that good amateur singers as well as professionals will enjoy. Surprisingly it is his first setting of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. There is much contrast in the vivid characterization of each verse, and a particularly effective coming to rest on ‘as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever’. You can hear a recording of the complete Magnificat on the publisher’s website.
James L. Montgomery
AFRICAN AMERICAN SPIRITUALS
WERE YOU THERE? [M]
SATB and organ
arr. James Whitbourn
Chester Music CH82214 £2.95
KUM BA YAH [E]
SATB and organ
arr. John Rutter
Oxford 978-0-19-340366-6 £1.60
James Whitbourn’s arrangement of Were you there? was written for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. It is effective, atmospheric and not too difficult. A successful performance needs excellent intonation in eight-part harmony. You can watch and hear a performance by King’s on YouTube recorded at last year’s televised Easter broadcast. If you have the choral resources, this will enhance next Good Friday’s music.
John Rutter’s short and very easy arrangement of Kum ba yah (in memory of Nelson Mandela) uses contrasts of texture and dynamics for its effect: upper and lower voices, harmony, accompanied or unaccompanied. This is suitable for modest SATB choirs.
O GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD [M/D]
SSA and organ
Oxford W181 £2.20
It is extraordinary to read that the manuscript of this 1977 piece was lost after its composition, hence its first publication in 2015. It could only have been written by Rutter. The texts are thoughtfully selected (verses from Psalms 136 and 67) and the words set with great care. The almost plainsong-like opening vocal lines, contrasting with a Britten-esque organ part, grow in richness and alternate with a more thoughtful ‘for his mercy endureth for ever’ – which triggers the entry of ‘God be merciful unto us, and bless us’ from Psalm 67. An extended Gloria includes a thrilling crescendo on ‘As it was in the beginning’ and a blazing conclusion. It deserves to become standard repertoire for upper-voice choirs.
A LITANY [M/D]
Four-part upper voices
Oxford W180 £1.85
Walton was 14 when he wrote his first version of A Litany (‘Drop, drop, slow tears’) for upper voices, subsequently reworked twice for SATB. A comparison between these first thoughts and the published SATB version is fascinating: there were re-barrings that alter the position of stresses and several places in the later version where rests were removed or the duration of chords shortened to tighten the music. At the start, the first version has two extra falling-third ‘drops’. But this upper-voice version still has the distinctive poignancy of the well-known SATB one, from those opening falling phrases, through the dramatic ‘cry for vengeance’ to the final, repeated ‘my tears’.
James L. Montgomery
FROM THE BREAK OF THE DAY [E/M]
SATB and piano or organ
Oxford 978-0-19-337141-5 £1.85
LOVE ONE ANOTHER [E/M]
SATB and piano or organ
Oxford 978-0-19-339566-4 £1.85
PRAISE THE LORD, YE HEAVENS ADORE HIM [E/M]
SATB and organ or piano
Oxford 978-0-19-339567-1 £1.85
Alan Bullard has a great gift for writing accessible, effective and melodious music for choirs; if you are not aware of his compositions, these three would be a good place to start. From the break of the day uses the text of the well-known hymn ‘Lord of all hopefulness’. This anthem is in the key of A flat with a contrasting F major central section, and has attractive four-part writing and an accompaniment for either piano or organ. The arrangement is sufficiently flexible to be performed effectively by a unison choir or by a soloist.
Love one another sets selected verses from the Gospels of Mark and John. It would be particularly fitting to use on Maundy Thursday, but these words of Jesus to love one another are so central to the Christian faith, we should sing them often. This setting blends words and music sensitively and interestingly, yet avoids sentimentality.
Using the well-known hymn text, based on Psalm 148, the anthem Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him is marked with the musical directive ‘with life and spirit’. It is a happy and up-beat arrangement that will be enjoyed by organists and choirs – and perhaps particularly, SATB secondary-school choirs. All three anthems are warmly recommended.
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE: A festival service to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta
compiled by Michael Hampel, Andrew Reid and Tim Ruffer
RSCM S0160 £6.50 (affiliates £4.88)
Of the four surviving copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta, two are in cathedrals – Lincoln and Salisbury. Whatever its legal weight today, it certainly retains iconic status and the Introduction to this volume emphasizes its granting to God the liberty of the Church. The service broadens the theme with words and music that concentrate on justice and social responsibility.
From the ‘Gathering’ onwards, with options by James MacMillan and Bernadette Farrell, two alternatives are printed for each musical item. Two of the congregational pieces have hymn or song options, the latter being the Gettys’ ‘There is a higher throne’ and the Kendrick/Rolinson ‘Restore, O Lord, the honour of your name’. Elsewhere you can choose anthems by William Harris (Strengthen ye the weak hands) or Malcolm Archer (Walk humbly with your God, specially written for the Magna Carta anniversary), and Philip Wilby (God be in my head) or Margaret Rizza (Dedication). Different approaches to the liturgy are provided by Kyries by Byrd (three-part) or Rosemary Field (troped, with a cantor), Magnificats by Sumsion (SATB) or Bernadette Farrell (can be upper or mixed voices, and with optional flute and trumpet lines), and psalms that are either Coverdale to Anglican chant or Common Worship Psalter to an excellent responsorial chant by Andrew Reid that deserves wider use.
This range means that choirs who buy the book initially for an RSCM Festival or other particular service will take back much other useful material. A further use is offered with an optional structure for a choral evensong: a section of ‘Additional choral resources’ provides Ebdon Preces and Responses and the Sumsion Nunc Dimittis in A that complements the Magnificat in the main part of the book. All in all, this useful compendium of material far transcends any specific anniversary.
O JESU, BLESSED LORD [E]
SAB or SATB and organ
MY SONG IN THE NIGHT [E]
SATB and piano
Oxford 978-0-19-340473-1 £2.20
Geoffrey Atkinson’s anthem O Jesu, blessed Lord is available for either SAB or SATB. Although merely 36 bars long, it is an effective meditation after Communion, and ends with a great fortissimo musical climax: ‘How blest am I, how good thou art!’ Both versions can be inspected on the Fagus-music.com website.
My Song in the Night is a gentle and intense setting of an American folk hymn. It is really written in two parts – men and women – with no more than eight bars of SATB harmony. The piano accompaniment is an important part of the texture and would only be playable on the organ with considerable reworking. You can hear (and see) a performance on YouTube with lush orchestration sung by the immaculately attired Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
ALLELUIA, SING TO JESUS! [E/M]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-339568-8 £1.85
ANGELUS DOMINI [M/D]
Novello NOV294283 £1.75
THOU KNOWEST, LORD [M/D]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-339903-7 £1.85
Alan Smith has written an exuberant anthem-setting of the hymn ‘Alleluia, sing to Jesus!’. With lively rhythms in both the organ and choral parts, this setting breathes new life into these familiar words, appropriate for the Eucharist, Easter and Ascensiontide. This is highly recommended, particularly for SATB choirs of young singers. You can listen to this anthem on the Oxford University Press Music website.
Angelus Domini by Patrick Hawes can be heard on YouTube and Spotify. This very short and slow setting in Latin for unaccompanied choir in eight parts was written for New College Choir, Oxford. Immaculate intonation is required. No English translation is given (perhaps only those who understand Latin are expected to buy this anthem?) but the text is the first part of the Angelus. For me, it felt somewhat incomplete without a subsequent Ave Maria.
The organ accompaniment of Thou knowest, Lord by Bob Chilcott (part of the composer’s Requiem) has been specially written for this edition. The score is for SATB choir in which every part divides. Again, there are many recordings of this on YouTube. Listen and decide!
MISSION PRAISE: 30th Anniversary Edition
Compiled by Peter Horrobin and Greg Levers
Collins Music edition (2 volume set) 978-0-00-756343-2 £55.00
Words 978-0-00-756519-1 £9.99 Large print words 978-0-00-756520-7 £25.00
Some readers may be surprised that Mission Praise is only 30 years old, since it seems to have been around for a lifetime (even for older readers). And during this time it has grown and grown – now 2,720 pages with 1,385 hymns and songs – so much that (and this is good news) it is in two volumes, heavy though each is. It has the virtue of consistency. Other hymn books have reviewed their choice of keys, harmonizations, associations of text and tune, versions of words, etc. with each new edition. This can be annoying for people who have always sung the words one way, or an alto or tenor part one way, to find it has changed in the latest version. No danger of that here – each item is reproduced exactly as it was in previous printings, with the latest additions at the end.
The first volume has the 798 items included in the 1993 Mission Praise Combined when previous volumes were combined, reordered and re-indexed (but not re-edited). Looking at that first volume, from ‘A new commandment’ to ‘Yours, Lord, is the greatness’, one does sometimes feel stuck in the 1980s. Did the original editors really get everything so right that 30 years later they don’t want to revisit some of their decisions? Is every one of the initially chosen items still being sung somewhere?
The second volume contains the later material with the extra 223 items of Complete Mission Praise, followed by the 123 of the 2005 edition, the 106 of the 25th Anniversary Edition, and now an extra 135 for the 30th anniversary. There will have to come an end to this adding with never subtracting! We do not need to revisit the well-aired arguments concerning shortcomings in the original books – that is not the point. Many churches have found that it has renewed their worship to have Mission Praise as a supplementary or indeed primary worship songbook. I continue to be grateful to have a copy accessible at my side and especially this latest version. There is no more complete collection of every item that a church musician might be called upon to play or sing.
The Dutch composer Fred Vonk has a number of his anthems recently published by Edition Ferrimontana. Sample pages may be inspected at http://musikalspezial.de/edition-ferrimontana.html?artist=29940 and copies with a minimum quantity of 20 may be ordered via that web page. If you have questions contact the composer direct at email@example.com
33 SPIRITUALS FOR UPPER VOICES [E/M]
arranged by Graham Buckland
S or SSA and piano
Bärenreiter BA7572 £15.00
Here is a useful collection, with the best-known spirituals (Deep river, O happy day, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Swing low, sweet chariot, Were you there, Steal away, When the saints go marching in and many others), some lesser known, and one that has been ‘adopted’ as a spiritual, Amazing grace, with words by John Newton and music from Scotland or Ireland. All work well with unison voices and the piano part provided, but singers will want to add the extra idiomatic SA parts to round out the varied textures. Choirs already using the SATB 64 Spirituals a cappella from the same arranger (reviewed in Sunday by Sunday 60, March 2012) will find that these arrangements are compatible. The religious sincerity and fervour of Afro-American spirituals continues to appeal to young singers as well as adults: this is an excellent introduction to some of the best of them.
AVE VERUM CORPUS [E]
Two-part upper voices and piano
Boosey & Hawkes BH 12945 £1.99
Not to be confused with Will Todd’s earlier Ave verum corpus for mixed voices, this short, straightforward setting is taken from Todd’s Songs of Peace. A haunting melody (which would be a useful exercise in reading and pitching for a young choir, with rising octaves, sevenths, fifths and fourths within four bars) lies above relaxed piano figuration. The second verse adds a second part to the tune with lots of canonic imitation, and the end is simple and satisfying.
FEAR THOU NOT [M/D]
Five-part upper voices SSMezzoAA
Bärenreiter BA7411 £3.50
Jansson is a choral conductor, teacher and composer based in Uppsala, Sweden. The words of this little motet are taken from Isaiah 41.10, starting ‘Fear thou not for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God.’ Ostinatos and pedals give a sense of security and steadiness appropriate for the text, while the music describes a huge arch, starting with one part, expanding to five by bar 20,and growing in range and dynamic to a triple forte climax before subsiding again with the opening music and words – but, instead of contracting to a unison, it comes to rest on a five-part C major chord. Written for one of Sweden’s foremost female choirs, it demands a wide range: second altos are allowed optional higher notes where the music descends to E flat and C below middle C, but first sopranos need to ring out with top Cs on two occasions. For choirs able to tackle this, it would be a rewarding piece.
CANTATE DOMINO [E]
Unison or two-part and piano
Spartan Press TKM716 £1.60
This is a tuneful and catchy setting of English words, with ‘Cantate Domino’ interjected after each sentence. It is designed to be used flexibly and works in unison, or indeed for a mixed group with upper voices on top and men on the second part. Very easy and unsubtle, it should work under almost any circumstances.
FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE REMAIN [E]
SA and organ or piano
Oxford W175 £1.85
Archer cleverly combines two of the standard wedding texts in a commission for a very special wedding, that of the RSCM’s former Regional Music Adviser, Andrew Robinson, to Laura in 2011. ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love ...’ from 2 Corinthians 13 is added to the Song of Solomon’s ‘For love is strong as death ...’ to create an anthem about God’s love, suitable for general use as well as at weddings. The organ part and vocal lines (linked by musical motifs) have a relaxed and easy flow, building to a thrilling climax in what is overall a reflective piece.
James L. Montgomery
ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES [M]
SATB with divisions
Novello NOV294800 £1.75
This condensed and expressive anthem was a highlight of the Novello Book of Music for Lent and Easter two years ago. Now available separately, it has a bitter-sweet mixture of major and minor, appropriate for a setting of verses from Jesus’ prayer to his Father, as reported in Matthew’s Gospel. There is a firm but quiet confidence at the end on an F major ‘Thy will be done.’
THE SHADOW OF THY CROSS [D]
SATB with divisions
Novello NOV294877 £2.75
The Mealor fingerprints are in the music: slow tempo, repeated divisi chords, low basses and high sopranos, extremes of dynamics, and, it must be admitted, a powerful, overwhelming intensity of expression. This setting of G.A. Studdert Kennedy (‘Woodbine Willie’) was commissioned for a WWI Commonwealth centenary service, but would make its impact in Holy Week and at other services where Jesus on the cross is the focus.
James L. Montgomery
SOL JUSTITIAE [E/M]
SATB (optional S solo)
Edition Peters EP70602 £2.25
T solo, SATB, organ and processional drum
Edition Peters EP72643 £2.25
SATB with divisions
Edition Peters EP70603 £5.50
Followers of Jeffrey Skidmore’s Ex Cathedra choir will know the music of Philip Roth – he wrote his 40-part Earthrise for that choir, as well as Unborn reviewed here. Ex Cathedra have also recorded Sol Justitiae, which is a setting of a Latin hymn written by James Barmby whilst he was principal of what is now Hatfield College. The words depict a journey from darkness to light, which starts by addressing the sun of righteousness and finishes with the everlasting light which shines on those washed in the blood of the Lamb – particularly suitable for the ‘Kingdom’ season between All Saints and Advent Sundays. Homophonic, with a gentle lyrical flow and much repetition, it is moderately easy and singable, especially without the optional soprano solo (‘unseen and high up, if possible’).
Unborn, adapted from The Traveller, an oratorio that Roth wrote with Vikram Seth (and heard in Salisbury and Lichfield Cathedrals and Holy Trinity, Sloane Square) is described as ‘a processional introit’. The text is pantheistic, but sung as Ex Cathedra premiered it in a Christmas candlelight concert or service, the ‘single word of truth that brings peace’ will be Christianized and heard as referring to the Word. The choral writing is easy, the tenor solo and organ part less so. In all these pieces there is evidence of the composer’s experience of Asian music, including Javanese gamelan, in the melodies themselves and also in the way they develop by repetition and juxtaposition.
More tricky is the lively setting of the Jubilate written for the 2012 Festival of St Cecilia and subsequently recorded by the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral. The complete Latin text comes first, and then the sopranos/trebles sing it in English with a dancing ATB accompaniment. All voices combine to sing ‘for the Lord is gracious’ and come to rest on ‘everlasting / in aeternum’, before an exhilarating crescendo based on the opening ‘Jubilate Deo’. Although fast, rhythmic, with divisi and with plenty of leaps and sudden contrasts, the notes are easy to pitch and there is much repetition and doubling – for a good parish church choir it would be fun to learn.
SIX ANTHEMS [M/D?D]
SATB with divisi, mostly with organ
score and CD
Colin Smythe Ltd 978-0-86140-489-6 £15.00
This is a surprising publication: six anthems presented as a weighty 278-page book, complete with a CD of them performed by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge under Stephen Cleobury. As an added bonus, the music of an organ piece by David Goode is included, first in solo and then duet versions: Variations on a theme by Francis Warner, the same Francis Warner, poet and dramatist, who wrote the words for the six anthems. The whole publication and recordings are acknowledged as having been made possible by grants from an anonymous couple: certainly such a publication could not be commercially viable, and indeed it is not very practical for performance, with innumerable page turns, especially where there is one system, sometimes with just two bars, per page. Luckily the pieces are available separately for download (at £2.50 each) on the composer’s website, where the initial pages of each anthem are also reproduced after each relevant poem.
Treated as a study score rather than performance material, this is a handsomely-produced volume that will give pleasure to conductors and others who read the scores and listen to the CD. The anthems are titled by their intended use: Anthem for All Saints’ Day, Anthem for St Catherine’s Day, Anthem for St Cecilia’s Day, Anthem for St Peter’s Day (all SATB and organ), Anthem for the Visitation (unaccompanied) and Anthem for Christ the King (SATB, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones and organ). The music of the anthems with organ often appears driven by the organ part, although the vocal writing is always very singable. There is a strong musical imagination at work, inspired by the poems which lie at their heart.
THE OFFERED CHRIST [D]
SATB and organ
Boosey & Hawkes 979-0-060-12933-9 £2.75
A commission for the 2013 Southern Cathedrals Festival, this work celebrates the Eucharist in the most vivid fashion. There is a range of typical MacMillan choral writing including highly decorated individual vocal lines, big contrasts, tightly imitative counterpoint contrasting with homophonic movement and gorgeously lyrical phrases extending over a wide vocal range. The work starts with the sopranos/trebles; lower parts enter – altos, then tenors, then basses. After a four part ‘Taste and see how sweet the Lord is. Alleluia’, voices drop out from top down so that there is an ATB section, a TB duet and a final intense bass exhortation to ‘Bless him all ye angels, bless him all ye powers’ with an ever-intensifying Alleluia to lead into a final spectacular full-organ flourish.
CAROLS: FAMILIAR WORDS WITH NEW TUNES
The Christmas carols reviewed in this section and the next are a selection from a much larger collection considered for review: they are those that I think are of good quality, accessible, enjoyable and appropriate to church, school and secular choirs. The carols which follow are therefore my own warmly-recommended choices. Any of them will enhance your Christmas programme. If you are reading this review too late for your choir this year, please consider the recommendations for next year!
WHAT CHILD IS THIS? [E–M]
Thomas Hewitt Jones
S solo, SATB and organ
Oxford X545 £1.85
INFANT HOLY [E–M]
SATB and organ
Oxford X554 £1.85
THE PROMISE OF PEACE (Two short carols) [E–M]
SATB with divisions
Encore Publications £1.95
WATTS’ CRADLE SONG [E–M]
Charles Villiers Stanford arr. Philip Moore
SATB and organ
Oxford X548 £1.85
LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS [E–M]
SATB with divisions
Novello NOV293579 £2.25
Here are six particularly beautiful carols, none of which is really difficult for SATB choirs. It is hard to write both simply and effectively, yet all these composers have done so as they set traditional words to newly composed, gentle and appealing melodies, expressing wonder at the birth of the Christ Child.
Thomas Hewitt Jones has written a haunting melody for What child is this?, accompanied by organ and set for SATB choir and soprano soloist. It appeared in Carols for Choirs 5, but is now reprinted separately. Malcolm Archer has composed an imaginative and unusual melody for the familiar Infant holy translation of a Polish carol: verse one is scored for sopranos accompanied by organ and verse two for SATB unaccompanied. Tenors, basses and altos have a little divisi, particularly effective at the end in the lush chords.
A tender shoot, the first of Ashley Grote’s two carols published under the overall title of The promise of peace, uses the familiar text by Goldschmidt, ideal for Advent. Unaccompanied and constructed in a similar way to Elizabeth Poston’s Jesus Christ the apple tree, with a unison soprano verse followed by SSAA verse 2, SATB verse 3 and a soprano unison, this is most effective. Watts’ cradle song is the second of his carols, and is absolutely beautiful – with lovely, warm Warlock-style harmonies, most effectively written for a four-part unaccompanied choir. The same Isaac Watts text replaces the words of Golden slumbers in Stanford’s song, masterfully arranged by Philip Moore. Previously available in a version for upper voices, this will now be welcomed by SATB choirs. Although dedicated to the choir of York Minster, other choirs that are able to feature a pure-toned descant line will enjoy this beautiful arrangement.
Christine Rossetti’s Love came down at Christmas is given a superb setting by Richard Lloyd for unaccompanied choirs that can summon eight parts. As in all the pieces reviewed in this section, although the notes are not difficult, a rewarding performance will depend on meticulous intonation.
CAROLS: MEDIEVAL WORDS IN 21ST-CENTURY SETTINGS
WHEN CHRIST WAS BORN OF MARY FREE [E–M]
SATB and organ
Oxford X534 £1.85
I SAW THREE SHIPS [E–M]
arr. Paul Trepte
SATB and organ
Encore Publications £2.95
NOVA! NOVA! [M]
Encore Publications £1.95
ROSE OF SUCH VIRTUE [M]
Oxford X537 £1.85
THE TRUTH FROM ABOVE [M]
arr. Richard Lloyd
SATB and organ
Encore Publications £2.35
That master of melodic invention, Malcolm Archer, has set the 15th-century text of When Christ was born of Mary free with great ingenuity, mainly in 7/8 time with a lively organ accompaniment. This cheerful and imaginative setting does need singers and an organist with accurate rhythmic control – though it really is not that difficult! This carol will be particularly relished by school choirs and the young at heart.
Paul Trepte has cleverly arranged the ‘other’ tune to I saw three ships for SATB choir and organ. Although vocal parts are not difficult, this exuberant arrangement needs a confident and accurate organist. The last verse includes an optional part for the congregation/audience which would provide a great finale to a carol concert, and should guarantee a smile on everyone’s face.
Louis Halsey’s unaccompanied carol for the annunciation, Nova! Nova! (‘News! News! “Ave” is made from “Eva”’) is a great setting, probably inspired by medieval music. There is a variety of verse treatment, including SAA and TBB verses and a jolly chorus, all arranged superbly by an expert in effective choral writing.
The text of No rose of such virtue is familiar, but here with music composed most effectively by Alan Bullard for unaccompanied SSATB choir. Soli and tutti contrast in this gentle carol with spacious choral writing.
As the basis for The truth from above, Richard Lloyd has set the text of ‘This is the truth sent from above’ to a traditional English carol tune rather than the more familiar folk tune used by Ralph Vaughan Williams. As with other arrangements by Richard Lloyd, this is a masterful and effective setting for choir and organ, which may be used effectively in Advent and Christmas carol services. It could effectively replace Adam lay ybounden after the first lesson in traditional carol services.
All these carols are warmly commended.
A NEW HEAVEN: 16 contemporary works for mixed voices [mostly D]
SATB with divisions, with and without keyboard
ed. Simon Halsey
Edition Peters EP 72475 £12.95
This volume appears to be an anthology of contemporary anthems available separately in the Faber Music and Edition Peters catalogues. Idioms range from Jonathan Harvey to Howard Goodall, from profound complexity to tuneful simplicity, taking in all manner of influences from jazz to ‘holy minimalism’. Everyone will have their favourites. I was particularly taken with the dancing Gloria from Jonathan Dove’s Missa Brevis and the slow-moving chords of Antony Pitts’s Adoro Te. Despite the inclusion of Goodall’s The Lord is my shepherd, the pieces are mostly difficult. Particularly valuable are Simon Halsey’s commentaries on each piece. The volume is certainly a good introduction to the diversity of church music being written at present by living British composers.
CLASSIC ANTHEMS for mixed-voice choirs [mostly M]
SATB with divisions, with and without keyboard
Novello NOV294371 £12.95
In a sense this is the opposite of the anthology described above. All from a single publisher’s catalogue, but in this case all the music is by composers long dead, and the pieces can well be described as ‘classic’. Many readers will know all the material here, and indeed many choirs will own all or most of it. Alphabetically from Adolphe Adam (O holy night! in John E. West’s arrangement) to S.S. Wesley (Ascribe unto the Lord and Blessed be the God and Father), via Attwood, Bainton, Brahms, Elgar, Balfour Gardiner, Hadley, Handel (a four-part version of the ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus) and on through the alphabet, this would be a very useful volume for a new church choir starting off with no music in its library, or a secular choir wanting to add some of the most popular church anthems to its repertoire via one publication, which with 246 pages is undoubtedly good value for money.
THE MAGI [M/E]
This ‘Fantasy on Epiphany Carols’ is in what the composer describes as ‘a neo-baroque style’. For each of the seven movements a pattern of figuration is established to accompany the Epiphany hymns and carols, a pattern which continues fairly predictably, but with occasional deft tonal side-steps, and often with charm and grace. The movement titles tell a story: The Wise Men follow the Star – The Star – Meeting with Herod – Mary and the Baby (Lullaby) – The Wise Men offer their Gifts – The Warning – Rejoicing. The piece may be performed therefore as a narrative suite – but each movement is self-contained for use as a voluntary (indeed movements 5 and 7 are also published together for £6.00). The music is always well-conceived for the organ and would work well on any two-manual instrument.
MANUALS ONLY OR WITH EASY PEDALS
BEST LOVED MELODIES Volume 2 [E]
arranged and edited by Christopher Tambling
Dr J. Butz with pedals BU2664 €14.00;
manuals only BU2665 €12.00
Sadly we have to include Chris Tambling’s obituary in the current (December 2015) issue of CMQ. These volumes are good examples of his passion for music, wide-ranging tastes, ability to communicate and enthuse others, and practical arranging skills. None of the twelve pieces was originally composed for the organ, but all are often requested in church. In the introduction, each piece has a brief paragraph sketching its background and significance. Composers are Bach, Beethoven, Elgar, Franck, Handel, Humperdinck, Parry, Purcell, Rachmaninov, Schubert and Wagner. Readers may be able to guess the most likely piece for each (Handel has two). In the case of Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, Jerusalem and Nimrod (disclosing three of the titles) the arrangements in the with-pedals volume are far easier – without sounding thinned out – than more commonly found versions.
MINIATURE ALBUM: Ten pieces for manuals only [E/M]
Dr J. Butz BU2657 €13.00
These are what some would call ‘character pieces’ including a Cortège, Siciliano, Klagelied [‘Dirge’ or ‘Elegy’], Spiritoso, Sarabande and Scherzetto. Other pieces are based on hymn tunes: ‘Ein schottisches Lied’ on Brother James’s Air, ‘Trumpet Minuet’ on Hereford, and ‘Reflexion’ on Rockingham. Finally, there is a ‘Postludio (in stile classico)’ which is either manuals only or with an optional easy pedal part. It is a useful, strongly characterized collection.
A COLLECTION OF ORGAN PIECES BY 18TH AND EARLY 19TH CENTURY ENGLISH COMPOSERS [mostly M]
edited by David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £12.00
This publication may not have the snappiest of titles, but the contents (for manuals only) are carefully selected, and would fill a gap in many an organist’s library. There are four pieces by John Stafford Smith, organist of the Chapel Royal from 1802 to 1836 and better known today for his glees. Other composers, with one piece each, are Timothy Essex, William Flackton, Barnabas Gunn, William Hine. John Humphries, James Martin Smith and John Watts. There is also the first modern publication of a Voluntary and Fugue in D minor by Henry Heron, organist of St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge until his death in around 1795. As so often, these English composers made up for the lack of pedals on their organs by developing a fiery and virtuosic style of keyboard writing. There are biographical notes on each composer and a useful introduction to registration and ornamentation.
AN EASY HANDEL ORGAN ALBUM: original works and arrangements [E/M]
George Frideric Handel
edited by Daniel Moult
Bärenreiter BA11213 £12.50
Handel’s publisher, John Walsh, published several of Handel’s instrumental works in organ solo arrangements. Four of his arrangements of organ concerto movements are included here. Following the spirit of those and other contemporary arrangements, Daniel Moult has arranged four pieces from Water Music suites, four from The Musick for the Royal Fireworks, and four other single pieces including the Pifa (Pastoral Symphony) from Messiah and ‘See the conquering hero comes’ from Judas Maccabaeus. Then there are five Handel harpsichord movements that work well on the organ (and instrumental designations could be fluid at the time) and, not least, three original barrel organ transcriptions by Handel’s assistant John Christopher Smith.
That amount of excellent music would make this a recommended volume in itself. But there is more: three pages of general notes on fingering, pedalling, articulation, notes inégales, tempi and registration (including a discussion of the stop lists of St Paul’s Cathedral and Covent Garden Theatre at the time) are followed by nine pages discussing each piece and with numerous performance suggestions. A huge amount of learning is worn very lightly. The publishers have been generous throughout, even with the indexes where after a normal contents list there is a separate index with the pieces arranged in order of technical difficulty. Three of the pieces have very easy pedal parts, optional in two of them.
TOCCATA XIII [M/D]
VOLUNTARY FÜR WILTEN [M/D]
Doblinger 02482 £11.95 & 02483 £12.50
Here are two further offerings from the Austrian composer Peter Planyavsky (b. 1947) following closely on the heels of his excellent Toccata Mauritiana reviewed in Sunday by Sunday Issue 74 (September 2015). Planyavsky has proved himself adept in the past at assimilating and re-imagining historical forms, and puts this ability to good use again with these new works. Toccata XIII follows the formal model of Georg Muffat’s twelve toccatas, alternating free, rhetorical sections with bound, polyphonic passages and is a fine modern take on Muffat’s work. A solid manual technique is required (pedal-work is minimal); an appreciation of registrations appropriate to Muffat’s era will bring this music to life.
Voluntary für Wilten is a voluntary in the literal sense of being ‘spontaneous’ – like Toccata XIII it is built from a series of contrasting short sections, some fugal, some free and rhetorical, some highly structured. Again this is an effective, literate piece with bold harmonies and gestures, and would make an excellent recital or liturgical work.
ZEIT UND LEBEN (TIME AND LIFE) [D]
Doblinger 02488 £15.50
Doblinger as a publisher has long had a reputation for fostering works of literacy, depth and originality while eschewing pastiche and facile music: Jürgen Essl (born in 1961 and currently professor of organ at the Academy of Music in Stuttgart) is a composer who epitomizes this ethos. This work was composed in 2011 for the inauguration of the new organ at Speyer Cathedral: it is in four contrasting movements, each incorporating and developing an historical melody (such as a Georgian Easter chant), and each of great harmonic and rhythmic complexity. This is a substantial work that would require detailed preparation, a strong technique and a large instrument with a broad tonal palette, but would be greatly rewarding for both performer and attentive listener.
7 VERSETTEN ZU LEONHARD LECHNER: ‘DAS HOHELIED SALOMONIS’ [M]
Doblinger 02498 £11.95
Herbert Lauermann (b.1955) is a teacher and composer based in Vienna who has a broad portfolio from small instrumental works to large-scale operas and cantatas; his style allies strong dissonance with rigorous structure and a bold expressiveness. This work consists of seven short Versets that were originally intended to alternate with the six movements of Leonhard Lechter’s Song of Solomon of 1606, picking up various tonal and thematic elements from the original. While the music would be most effective in this original configuration, this set would still make a striking and varied recital work, benefiting from thoughtful registrations.
SHORTER ORGAN WORKS Volume 1 [E/M]
SHORTER ORGAN WORKS Volume 2 [M]
TWO HARVEST MEDITATIONS [M]
animus £7.50; £7.50; £4.00
How good it is that animus should have republished these long out-of-print works by the gentle but sad Robin Milford, who never recovered from the death of his son, and took his own life in 1959. The shorter pieces are ordered by difficulty, with the easiest in Volume 1. Best known must be the Chorale Prelude on ‘St Columba’, which used to appear in wedding music collections and which opens Volume 2. Most extraordinary is the Op.115 (his final opus number) Chorale Prelude on ‘Rockingham’, darkly chromatic and with a snake-like counter-melody that might represent the demon that was soon to overcome him. Also dating from Milford’s final months is a Prelude for organ on ‘O Filii et Filiae’ (Op.114) that appears to be receiving its first publication.
The Harvest Meditations are based on Wareham (as in ‘Rejoice, O land, in God thy might’) and more surprisingly on a phrase from the Coventry Carol combined with a Somerset folk tune. Never predictable, even when the music appears at its most straightforward, the various pieces in these three volumes bear out Ralph Vaughan Williams’s claim that if he wanted to show a foreigner ‘something worth doing which could only possibly come out of England I think I would show him some of the work of Milford’.
MANUALS ONLY OR WITH VERY EASY PEDALS
TWELVE VOLUNTARIES Vol.1 (1–6) [M]
TWELVE VOLUNTARIES Vol.2 (7–12) [M]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £10.00 each
Theophania Cecil (1782–1879), one of the few female composers of the period, became organist at St John’s Chapel, Bedford Row, London. Published c.1810, these Voluntaries are mostly in one movement. There is writing in the right hand for the Bassoon (no.1 which is melodic and no.2 with its repeated three-note figure) and the Cremona (no.3), which features extended passages for crossed hands. No.4 is closer to William Russell in its Larghetto and Allegro, and no.5 is a cantabile switching between Swell and Great. No.6 offers far greater variety in its two lively movements, the second being a robust, insistent 3/4 Allegro.
No.7 includes short RH passages for the Cremona, which occasionally dip below the LH. Nos.8 and 10 are quite short, slow pieces; no.8 finishes in the bass clef, no.10 is in ternary form. No.9 is a short Spiritoso which includes repeated semiquaver chords in the RH, but finishes in quavers. Nos.11 and 12 are far more extended, covering half the volume. No.11 finishes with an Allegro similar to no.6, and no.12 consists of three movements approaching Russell in style. Pedals are required in several pieces, mainly long held points, but some include crotchet movement.
These pieces offer less harmonic interest but somewhat fewer technical challenges than the voluntaries by William Russell and Thomas Adams, but the extended crossed-hands writing for the Bassoon and Cremona and the internal writing between the octaves in right hand in several passages may pose a challenge, as may passages in octaves in left hand. Adjustments will need to be made for notes outside today’s compass in both manual and pedals. Some of the pieces would make attractive additions to the recital repertoire and offer good teaching material. The volumes are printed and edited to David Patrick’s usual high standards.
THE FAGUS BOOK OF SLOW MOVEMENTS FROM 18TH-CENTURY ENGLISH VOLUNTARIES [E]
ed. Geoffrey Atkinson
The title may be a mouthful, but the contents of this useful anthology slip down easily. It comprises just the slow introductory sections of 25 voluntaries selected from the 34 published in the Fagus collected editions of the voluntaries of Maurice Green (1696–1755), John Travers (c.1703–58) and John Bennett (d.1784). Why? The editor, Geoffrey Atkinson, explains that ‘arguably the best, and easily the most expressive music in these 18th-century pieces is to be found in these opening slow sections ...’. They are certainly expressive; they are also useful as they stand by themselves, used as (quoting Atkinson again) what Samuel Wesley was to describe as ‘desk voluntaries’, i.e. music to be kept by the organ desk for use as ‘fillers’. There are short one-page ‘fillers’ and more substantial three-page pieces here, especially from John Bennett whose music seems to look forward towards the early 19th century. My regret would be if purchase of this anthology discouraged organists from exploring the wide-ranging, inventive and lively music that almost always follows these slow introductions. Buy this volume for convenience, but then let enjoyment of the music lead to buying one or more of the complete editions.
IN TRANQUIL MODE [E]
‘In Tranquil Modes’ might have been the title, such is the range of music encompassed here. Subtitled ‘Six Easy Pieces for Organ Manuals’, there is ‘Martinmas’, a cradle song (‘Canción de Cuna’), Pastorale, Prayer, and a piece based on plainsong (Kyrie XVI). The final Nocturne has an extended tonality and a feeling that it is telling a story or painting a picture. All the pieces begin and end quietly, with a slightly louder central section that often has more movement. Recommended as effective and subtle mood-setting pieces.
HUDSON PRELUDES [M/D]
PRELUDE ON LASST UNS ERFREUEN [M]
St Rose Music Publishing Co (Music Sales)
SRO110081 £7.95 & SRO110116 £8.95
FAST CYCLES [D]
St Rose Music Publishing Co (Music Sales)
SRO110101 & 110062 £9.95 each
Nico Muhly is one of the most popular and versatile young composers working on either side of the Atlantic. Born in America and based in New York, his incessant schedule and diverse, prolific output is testament to his strong work ethic and imagination. These four works are from 2005 to 2013, showing that organ music has formed a consistent stream in his oeuvre.
Often, Muhly’s titles allude to the American minimalist style (such as John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine) and indeed there are strong minimalist elements in his writing, though often combined with a freer, more lyrical voice. Hudson Preludes (2005), a diptych of works, shows both sides of this character: the first movement ‘Take Care’ is warmly emotional, contrasting with a furious, brilliant, moto perpetuo toccata ‘Follow-Up’. Prelude on Lasst uns erfreuen (2007) is a thoughtful work that, avoiding cliché, starts and ends in rich, fragmented chordal writing, developing a more energetic, pattern-led central section. Fast Cycles (2009) is pure minimalism, another toccata of repeating and developing patterns in the hands underpinned by an unfolding and developing pedal melody. Patterns (2013) is a more substantial, 25 minute set of four virtuoso pieces that show Muhly’s development as a composer: figurations, rhythms and harmony have become more extended and varied, a sign perhaps of a future direction.
All these works require rock-steady technique and delivery to allow the music to convince, allied to an imaginative approach to registration and a generous acoustic where possible. To this observer, the music is most affecting in the quieter, lyrical passages where Muhly allows an emotional kernel to emerge, but I have no doubt that the faster, more exciting music will prove enduringly appealing to audiences too.
FAITH, LOVE, HOPE [D]
Banks Music Publications 14074 £4.95
This latest offering from Frederick Stocken is a musical depiction of the ‘theological virtues’, their traditional order changed to create a convincing triptych. The opening movement is an energetic, moto perpetuo toccata with an extending and developing theme in the pedals; ‘Love’ is the slow centrepiece, moving to a warm and generous climax; ‘Hope’ provides an exultant conclusion to the set. This is deeply felt and thoughtful music.
TOCCATA MAURITIANA [M/D]
Doblinger 02503 £13.95
The Austrian composer Peter Planyavsky (b.1947) may already be known to readers for his exuberant Toccata alla Rumba. This new toccata, composed in 2014 for the organ competition in St Moritz, Switzerland, is equally exuberant but has an admirably serious streak and is harmonically more severe. The work’s central section is actually a long ‘calmando’, subverting the toccata genre, before the opening tempo is regained, ending with a triumphant flourish. Based on a plainsong hymn for the feast of St Moritz, Toccata Mauritiana would make an excellent voluntary or recital work.
REINHEIMER VARIATIONEN [M]
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 15228 £7.95
INTRODUKTION UND PASSACAGLIA [D]
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 22963 £11.95
MARIANISCHE ANTIPHONEN [M]
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 15233 £9.95
Though theypublish a broad spectrum of instrumental and vocal music, Cologne-based Edition Dohr’s growing catalogue of organ music is testament to the insatiable and admirable demand of German organists for original works by living composers. Handsomely and simply produced with distinctive and hard wearing ‘old gold’ covers, the volumes are well priced and prefaced with clear notes and biographical information in German and English. By and large the quality of the music itself is pretty high, and often comes from practising German organists writing for their colleagues and communities, very much the case with these three works.
Bernd Genz’s melodious Reinheimer Variationen on an original theme are very approachable in a tonal post-romantic style, pretty and idiomatically written. Reiner Gaar’s thunderous Introduktion und Passacaglia requires the resources of a larger instrument. Again it is tonal in a post-romantic manner, but taken to greater extremes, with heavy chromaticism and some confronting clusters: a satisfying work that makes deeper demands of the player’s technique. Finally Walter Glessner’s quartet of Marianische Antiphonen maintain the neo-classical tradition of Hindemith, Distler and Kropfreiter: again, idiomatically written and satisfying to play, if less demanding than Gaar’s work, these would make useful liturgical or concert works.
It is an excellent catalogue, well worth exploring.
TOCCATA INGENUO [E/M]
I wonder how many non-US readers know Gordon Young’s Prelude in Classic Style of 1966. There are plenty of performances on YouTube, and it does help to know it to appreciate what Geoffrey Atkinson has done in this affectionate ‘Homage to Gordon Young’. But equally important is to be aware of Atkinson’s dedication: ‘For all those who like their music to sound more difficult than it really is’. Everything lies under the hands and feet perfectly. It sounds if not virtuosic at least energetic and triumphant – good for providing a bright end to a big service. The helpfulness even applies to the printing: an extra loose-leaf copy of page 4 is provided to avoid a page turn (and avoid having to make a photocopy of that page oneself).
PASSACAGLIA Op.80 [D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.00
John Henderson, in his invaluable Directory, describes this as ‘a fine piece reminiscent of Max Reger’. Merikanto (1868–1924) was conductor of the Finnish Opera and also organist of St Johannes church in Helsinki. David Patrick has re-edited the music from Merikanto’s manuscript that includes the composer’s registration scheme. Starting with the passacaglia theme pianissimo in the pedals, it gradually builds up to two thundering climaxes, with a final triple-forte statement of the theme in double-octave pedals below thick manual chords. In between there is much light and shade, and musical inventiveness. It is more tightly constructed that many of the big romantic organ works, and deserves a place in the repertoire among them.
O HIMMLISCHE FRAU KÖNIGIN – FANTASIE [E]
Edition Dohr 13776 £6.95
The melody of this ‘Fantasia for manuals’ is from a hymn, ‘O himmlische Frau Königen’, that is unlikely to be known by Sunday by Sunday readers. But it is an attractive and memorable tune that starts as if it is going to be ‘St Columba’, and will certainly feel familiar to any listener by the end of this piece, as the melody weaves its way through the six characterful movements. Graap has not only had a distinguished career as a church musician, but also as a teacher of church musicians and organists. He certainly knows how to write technically easy music that does not sound simple. The preface and note about the composer are in German and English – it is a pity then that there is no translation of the German tempo marks.
See also the manuals-only Sonata da camera included in Sanders’s Vier Orgelcomposition reviewed below.
Edition Dohr 12681 £9.95
The German composer and recitalist Walter Gleissner (b. 1931) is a regular with Edition Dohr and this new offering shows his characteristic thoroughness of form and compositional literacy. The six miniatures are intended as liturgical fillers but could easily be played as a complete set: they inhabit a post-Hindemithian tonality and are easily accessible, although they would require thoughtful registrations and tempi. The Meditation on Psalm 91 and the Finale are particularly satisfying and more substantial than the other movements.
ACHT KOMPOSITIONEN (EIGHT COMPOSITIONS): Collected Organ Works, Vol. 4 [M]
Butz Verlag BU2613 £11.50
Edition Butz caters for the seemingly bottomless appetite amongst German parish organists for collections of character pieces such as this offering by Andreas Willscher (born in 1955 in Hamburg). There is much to commend the set – the works are tonal, literate, approachable and technically easily within the reach of most organists. Standing out from the collection is a Toccatina in Seven (reminiscent of Rutter’s similarly-titled work), an exuberant fanfare, Trompettes d’Argent, and an atmospheric Pie Jesu (one of three Requiem movements).
SEVEN ORGAN PIECES IN ROMANTIC STYLE [M]
SUITE CATACTERISTIQUE über ‘Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman’ [M]
Margaretha Christina de Jong
edited by Albert Clement
Butz Verlag 2640 £13.00 and 2623 £9.00
Margaretha Christina de Jong’s music features heavily in Dr J. Butz’s catalogue, and for good reason: like Willscher, reviewed above, she is adept at providing character pieces for organ that are accessible and effective for organist and listener alike. These two volumes are typical of her output: a neo-romantic tonal style, works of different lengths and moods to fulfil different needs, and technically achievable. I particularly enjoyed the fanfare from the Seven Organ Pieces in Romantic Style: punchy and fun to play and hear.
THE REVD MUSTARD HIS INSTALLATION PRELUDE [M/D]
St Rose Music Publishing SRO100057 £6.95
Nico Muhly has a growing reputation as a composer: this comparatively slight offering seems somewhat incidental to the main body of his work and may be of primary interest or use to those in the parish of East Barnet, for whose rector’s installation this toccata-style prelude was written in 2012. A steady rhythmic grip will be required to keep the perpetual motion semiquavers convincing, and some imaginative registration will help maintain the listener’s interest.
PARTITA MAURITIANA [M]
Augustinus Franz Kropfreiter
Doblinger 02499 £11.95
The Austrian composer Kropfreiter is best-known for his Toccata Francese to which I (and I suspect many other organists) was introduced by Peter Hurford’s excellent 1986 recording. Born in 1936 and still prolific, Kropfreiter has composed numerous works for organ all of high quality, this Partita from 2000 being particularly strong. It is based on the plainsong for the feast of St Maurice (the entire plainsong is helpfully included in this handsome edition) and takes the form of an Organ Mass. The music is by parts muscular and limpidly fluid, with exciting strong harmonies and plenty of scope for imaginative registration. A fine liturgical or concert work.
Boosey & Hawkes 979-0-060-12873-8 £10.99
The Ad Wammes phenomenon continues with this new (2012) collection of four character pieces. As we have come to expect, they are titled quirkily (the first three are ‘Play it cool!’, ‘The messenger on the hill’ and ‘Rejoice’), rhythmically complex and atmospheric. Players will need to be on their game to maintain rhythmic coordination between the hands, but the final movement, ‘Passacaglia’ is a more sedate, moody affair and offers a more forgiving technical introduction to Wammes’s music.
DAS LEBEN IST EBEN NICHT EINFACH NUR SCHWARZ ODER WEIß [D]
Doblinger 02481 £13.95
The technical conceit of Austrian composer Schmidinger’s work is simple: the hands play the same figures simultaneously, one hand on white keys only, the other on black (the pedals mixing the two). The effect takes a moment or two for the ear to grasp; thereafter, through exuberant rhythms and figurations, the piece becomes most engaging and exciting. A strong technique, clear head, and imaginative approach to registration is required to play the work convincingly, but recital audiences may well thank you for your efforts!
HYMN SETTINGS FOR ORGAN
OXFORD HYMN SETTINGS FOR ORGAN
Volume 3: Lent and Passiontide
Volume 4: Easter and Ascension
Oxford 978-0-19-339347-9 and 978-0-19-339346-2 £18.95 each
Trevor Webb was enthusiastic about the first two volumes is this series (Sunday by Sunday 70 and 71). Although volumes 3 and 4 were not received in time for reviews to appear before Lent and Easter, organists who enjoyed the first volumes and purchased these latest ones will have been well rewarded. These are all well-structured compositions rather than ‘hymn-fillers’. Keys are chosen to match those frequently found in hymn books, but it would be a pity just to use these pieces (and inevitably adapt their length) to extend a hymn and fill a gap. I particularly enjoyed the pieces that confound expectations such as David Blackwell’s Pastorale on Gerontius with a gentle 9/8 canon that at the end slips from Dykes into Elgar, and Michael Bedford’s Meditation on Easter Hymn that is quiet throughout. ‘Easter Hymn’ and ‘Passion Chorale’ are the only two of the 62 hymns that have two settings, the second Easter Hymn being a wildly rhythmic treatment by Philip Moore. A New Commandment, The Servant King, Alleluia no. 1, Jesus is Lord and a ‘Jubilant Dance’ on Our God Reigns provide coverage of hymns and songs that have more recently become established, alongside the hymns traditionally associated with these seasons.
BERNARD WAYNE SANDERS
RHAPSODY ON TWO SOUTHERN HARMONIES [M]
Bernard Wayne Sanders
Edition Dohr 11375 £7.95
This 2001 transatlantic offering, from the increasingly ambitious Cologne-based publishing house Dohr,is an exuberant fantasia on two Southern American hymn-tunes or ‘harmonies’ from the early 19th century. Sanders, born (in 1957) and educated in America, but active as a church musician in Tuttlingen in southern Germany, shows admirable compositional and idiomatic control in a piece that would suit a festal service or lighter recital.
VIER ORGELKOMPOSITIONEN (FOUR ORGAN COMPOSITIONS) [M]
Bernard Wayne Sanders
Edition Dohr 14204 £24.95
Hot on the heels of the volume reviewed above comes this substantial collection of pieces written by Sanders in 2012 and 2013, which round out the picture of this interesting composer. A gently rocking D major Cradle Song is disturbed by a substantial B minor section, eventually side-stepping into B flat major before a welcome return to the tonic and opening melody. Classical forms are common in the Prelude, Recitative and Fugue and several movements of a manuals-only Sonata da camera (written for an instrument with just two stops, 8 and 4 foot) that includes Ricercare, Scherzo and Rondo; but conventional opening bars are often delightfully led astray by quirky rhythms and irregular metres. The most substantial piece is a series of Seven Propositions based on the ‘I am’ sayings of Christ in John’s Gospel, treated with a light touch in the form of a suite in classical French style.
THE EBOR ORGAN ALBUM: seven pieces for seven decades [E/M – M/D]
Banks Music Publications 14080 £9.95
ECHOES: A tribute to Alan Spedding [E/M – D]
Banks Music Publications 14079 £8.95
The Ebor Organ Album celebrates the 70th anniversary of the York & District Organists’ Association. Echoes is a tribute to a much-loved organist of Beverley Minster who died in 2013, of whom Simon Lindley writes that ‘if there were a category of Honorary Yorkshireman, Alan would be well and truly up there at the head of the roll-call.’ It is not surprising that, of the five Yorkshire-based composers represented in Echoes, four also appear in the Ebor Organ Album.
Andrew Carter kicks off the Ebor album with a jolly Dance for Joy, full of what he describes as ‘harmonic mischief’ and a ‘pedal part even I could manage’. In Echoes, his Cantilena ‘in fond memory of Alan Spedding’ has a quiet resignation in its flowing melody. The section marked ‘Wittily’ is, one suspects, a reflection of part of Spedding’s character, something found in other pieces here that try to encompass different aspects of the man. Francis Jackson contributes a canonic Echo ‘remembering Alan’ and a gentle Arietta for Ebor, whilst Philip Moore similarly has a more strictly composed Theme & Variations ‘In memory’ and a reflective Prelude on Horsley in the Ebor collection that should be heard where organs play in Holy Week. Most demanding of all is John Scott Whiteley’s Elegiac Rhapsody (‘in memory of my friend’) that builds to an impassioned climax – ‘Tutti, senza reed 32’ with L.H. ‘Tubas 16.8.(4)’ – at its centre. In contrast his Carillonette on Merton is a tightly-written ‘nutshell version of the traditional perpetuum mobile carillon’.
Simon Lindley contributes a Dr Spedding’s Galliard based on the Dowland tune adapted by Martin Shaw that appeared in English Hymnal for the ‘Litany of the Passion’. The Ebor collection has pieces based on the hymn tune ‘York’ by Nigel Holdsworth and Peter Moger, and Frederick Viner’s Bagatelle that is a more substantial piece than its title implies.
SORTIE from MESSE BASSE Op.30 [M/D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.00
Vierne’s Messe Basse of 1912 is a six-movement organ piece designed to accompany a said Mass. The Sortie is its finest movement and, in the words of Vierne’s pupil and biographer, Bernard Gavoty, ‘gives those, who never heard Vierne improvise, a very good idea of an improvisation at the end of Mass at Notre-Dame de Paris’. Written on two staves for organ or harmonium, David Patrick has separated the pedal part onto a third stave and transposed it down an octave in a couple of places. The toccata-like semiquavers are not as difficult as they sound in what would be an excellent, sparkling final voluntary.
SYMPHONY NO.5 Op.47 [D]
ed. Helga Schauerte-Maubouet
Bärenreiter BA9225 £26.50
Louis Vierne’s six organ symphonies follow a rising sequence of minor keys from no.1 in D minor up to no.6 in B minor (and the few sketches that have survived for no.7 are in C minor). Bärenreiter’s complete edition has so far included nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6, and now comes no.5 in A minor, the largest of them, and one that was notorious for the number of misprints in its original 1925 Durand edition. In this handsome volume the original edition, the composer’s autograph and an anonymous list of corrections preserved with the autograph have all be consulted. Details are given in the critical report (in English, French and German), and in an introduction which is able to explore the work’s genesis partly with reference to previously unpublished letters written by the composer. This new edition can now safely be regarded as the definitive one for all six symphonies.
PRELUDES AND FUGUES I
PRELUDES AND FUGUES II
Johann Sebastian Bach
ed. David Schulenberg
Breitkopf EB8801 and 8802 €24.80 each
These two volumes in Breitkopf’s complete Bach organ works in 10 volumes promise exceptionally well for the rest of the series. The most immediately obvious difference between these volumes and the Neue Bach Ausgabe is the inclusion of a CD-ROM with each volume, from which the user can view or print works of dubious authenticity and also secondary versions that can be compared with the principal versions including in the printed score. No longer is it necessary to have separately published critical reports, or more pages of detailed notes at the end of the score than there are of actual music. David Schulenberg, renowned as a performer as well as a Bach scholar (although on harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano rather than organ), follows most modern scholarship in choosing where possible to follow a single source that can be traced back to the composer or his immediate circle, and listing divergences from that.
Volumes I and II include between them the complete Preludes and Fugues. In the first volume, the C major Prelude and Fugue BWV 545 illustrates the approach of the edition. Schulenberg describes how it survives in at least five distinct versions. The printed score give the ‘normal’ two-movement version, plus an additional trio movement inserted to form a three-movement work, plus a shorter early version of the prelude. In addition, on the CD-ROM appears the fugue of the same early version, since that fugue is only preserved in a source of uncertain authority, and a five-movement version of the work in B flat with extra second and fourth movements, the responsibility for which is even less certain. Organists will not need to throw away their NBA editions, but will certainly find enlightenment in having these new volumes as well.
NEARLY COMPLETE DURUFLÉ
OEUVRES POUR ORGUE / MUSIC FOR ORGAN [D]
Hal Leonard DF 16175 £13.90
Here is great news for organists: all the Duruflé organ works originally published separately by Éditions Durand in a single volume at a sensible price (three of the pieces included here each used to cost more than this entire volume). It is almost the complete Duruflé: his only organ music not published by Durand was a late Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des Heures (described in John Henderson’s Directory as ‘not in the same class as the earlier pieces’) and the Prelude sur l’introit de l’Epiphanie – a pity that couldn’t be included as it is shorter and much easier than his other organ music. What you do have, in reprints of the original editions, are the Scherzo Op.2, Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du Veni creator Op 4, Suite Op.5, Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain and the Méditation of 1964. Once upon a time these wonderful if very difficult pieces would have set you back £75: grab this collection and be grateful!
Subtitled ‘Five Peaceful Preludes and a Postlude’, this little Suite explores different hymn tunes associated with the feast of Pentecost. Samuel Webbe’s Veni, Sancte Spiritus will probably be the best known. There is a preponderance of tunes that may once have been popular, but no longer. At the end comes a setting of J.B. Dykes’s Veni Creator Spiritus along with the instruction that ‘the choir might be encouraged to sing the first verse of AMR 152 in unison here.’ A splendid idea – but Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised (1950) seems to have been the last mainstream hymn book in which the tune appeared. Nevertheless, we regularly play chorale preludes based on tunes that are no longer (if ever) found in our hymn books, and there is much to enjoy in all six short pieces: well worth exploring for an organist’s peaceful Pentecost.
FANTASIE Op.73 and DOUBLE THÊME VARIÉ [M/D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £8.00
Rousseau (1853–1904) studied with César Franck and subsequently worked with him for 15 years at Sainte-Clotilde. Acclaimed in his day, his music does not deserve the neglect into which it has fallen. John Henderson describes it as ‘of uniformly high quality’, and so it appears from these two pieces that David Patrick has combined in one volume. Memorable tunes set in an unrestrained way that displays its emotional heart on its sleeve may suggest the opera house rather than the organ loft, and indeed Rousseau was also noted as a composer of operas. I’m sure that any congregation would enjoy hearing either of these pieces after a service.
arr. Alexandre Guilmant
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £4.00
One might hear shades of Fauré’s Dolly Suite Berceuse in this music, even without knowing that the original Saint-Saëns piece was a piano duet. Guilmant’s transcription makes it sound, however, as if originally conceived for organ. Registration is given for a three-manual instrument, but it would work fine on two or even a single manual. Three minutes of relaxed Gallic charm.
ORGAN AND OTHER INSTRUMENTS
CATHEDRAL SOUNDS [E/M]
Charles Villiers Stanford
arr. Carsten Klomp and Heiko Petersen
Brass ensemble and organ
Bärenreiter BA11204 score and wind score £11.50
Bärenreiter’s enterprising ‘Organ Plus Brass’ series reaches its fourth volume with the surprising choice of five of Stanford’s choir and organ anthems, but Stanford’s choral writing transcribes well for brass and these are effective arrangements. Three of the anthems are the ‘hymns’ that Stanford arranged for choir and organ to follow his Op.113 ‘Bible Songs’: In thee is gladness, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty and O for a closer walk with God. The other two are How beauteous are their feet and Arise, shine. The main publication comprises a score for organ and brass with an inserted brass score (in C). The brass score is also available separately, as are parts for trumpets (in C), horn (in F) and trombones (in C).
PEDALLING FOR ORGANISTS: a complete instruction in pedalling illustrated with photographs
Anne Marsden Thomas
Cramer 90670 £15.95
This is a splendid book, with an abundance of exercises and illustrations. Particularly useful are the 178 indexed examples from ‘real’ pieces of music, ranging from Bach’s predecessors to Bonnet and Dupré (Howells is included in the composer list, but doesn’t seem to have made the final printing, perhaps for copyright reasons). There are lots of exercises for beginner organists, and the 37 chapters introduce technical features in a systematic way.
There is an awareness of stylistic issues, and discussion of the appropriate use of an articulated touch or a legato one or a mixture of the two. I grew up on Henry Phillips’s Modern Organ Pedalling and even in the 1970s was aware that its one-size-fits-all approach was becoming dated. It is fascinating to compare the different approaches to the same examples. In, for example, Bach’s ‘Great’ G minor fugue, at bar 57 Phillips treated the first of each pair of semiquavers as the bass line and made them quavers played toe-heel-toe-heel by the left foot whilst the right foot taps out the intervening notes staccato. Marsden Thomas treats it as a simple exercise in toe alternation.
There is much of value here for organists of beginner or advanced standard with material for study and, usefully, for sight reading. Order it quickly – the price increases to £18.95 after 3l December.
GETTING STARTED ON ORGAN IMPROVISATION: A new approach
This is a book for beginners. It assumes very little harmonic knowledge, starting for example by checking that the improviser can play scales easily and confidently in the five most common major and minor keys. In the early stages it concentrates on melodic improvisation, allowing harmonic understanding to develop in later stages. As such it will be very useful for players without a strong harmony and counterpoint background but who need to be able to improvise. It will provide the player with a range of ideas to call on and use as appropriate. Emphasis is also given to planning and practising improvisation to give confidence. There are many players whose improvising would grow in confidence, or indeed start for the first time, as a result of this encouraging book.
VOLUNTARIES OR PIECES FOR THE ORGAN [E/M]
Arcangelo Corelli adapted by John Marsh
ed. David Patrick and John Collins
Fitzjohn Music Publications £12.00
John Marsh (1752-1826) was inspired by hearing, as a young man, the playing of John Stanley, and went on to compose some 324 organ voluntaries, 39 symphonies and much more. A considerable part of his output was written for performance in Chichester, including in the cathedral where he may have been assistant organist. Corelli is sometimes described as the first composer widely renowned for instrumental music, and his pieces appeared in many transcriptions (including one by J.S. Bach). Marsh adapted 28 pieces as voluntaries, and his extensive introduction is reprinted in full, where he discusses earlier adaptations by Billington and Miller which were for pianoforte or organ. Marsh emphasizes that his selection is of pieces ‘well adapted to the organ’ and in a style suitable for church use, ‘with a view to assist the young organ player’. The music is tuneful, polished and graceful; editorial notes by David Patrick and John Collins will illuminate its performance, whether by Marsh’s young organ player or a seasoned recitalist.
THE SECOND FAGUS COLLECTION OF VOLUNTARIES FOR MANUALS: 29 miscellaneous pieces from 18th to 21st centuries [E-M/E]
This anthology ranges from Handel and Greene to such Fagus stalwarts as Stephen Burtonwood and Ronald Watson, via Wesley, Sullivan, Karg-Elert, Elgar and much more. Paul Edwards contributes three particularly pleasing pieces, including a pastiche 18th-century voluntary as if providing a link between the earlier and later pieces collected here. For an organist building up a repertoire of manuals-only pieces, this book would provide a useful range of pieces in different styles.
WITH VERY EASY PEDALS
AIR FROM ‘BROOK GREEN SUITE’ [E/M]
arr. Michael Dawney and Geoffrey Atkinson
Michael Dawney’s arrangement was first published by Oecumuse, and is now reissued with some unnecessary awkwardnesses on the organ removed by Geoffrey Atkinson. Holst wrote Brook Green Suite for string orchestra for his pupils at St Paul’s Girls School at Brook Green, Hammersmith, London. It was one of his final works. The Air has a wistful, elegiac feel and transcribes well for organ.
OXFORD HYMN SETTINGS FOR ORGANISTS: EPIPHANY: 20 original pieces on hymns for Epiphany, the Baptism of Christ and the Transfiguration [E/M-M/D]
ed. Rebecca Groom te Velde and David Blackwell
Oxford 978-0-19-339345-5 £10.95
This is the second volume in OUP’s eminently practical new series for organists, and maintains the standard of excellence set by its predecessor. The 20 pieces cover widely-used tunes, from Be still through Greensleeves, Kings of Orient and Wie schön leuchtet. Many will not be limited to strictly seasonal use. All are by contemporary composers, written in a variety of styles, ranging from quiet contemplative to rousing postludes. The idiom varies from slightly Baroque to unfrighteningly contemporary.
Of particular note are the settings of two worship songs, Regular readers will know my views, but Be still and Shine, Jesus, shine are two of the best. Ashley Grote’s Prelude on the former is utterly charming. The tune is rhythmically modified, with a neat twist to traditional diatonic harmony. Shine, Jesus, shine, set by David Blackwell, is an exciting postlude, using largely 3+3+2 quaver groupings as the main accompanying figure. There is a more sedate middle section, acting as a trio to the main section.
James Biery’s Aria on Greensleeves provides a handy alternative to the well-known setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
As with the previous Advent and Christmas volume, these compositions have brought a fresh perspective to this important musical form. The book should form a basic part of every parish organist’s library.
FRANZ SCHUBERT FOR ORGAN [mostly M/D]
arr. Erich Benedikt
Doblinger (U.E.) 02 489 £17.95
One’s first inclination on seeing this volume is to ask ‘why?’. Then one starts playing the transcriptions and the answer comes – because the pieces chosen work so well on the instrument, so idiomatically in the arrangements by Erich Benedikt. This may not surprise readers who sometimes play an arrangement of Schubert’s ‘Death and the maiden’ quartet before funerals; indeed the first four of the 14 pieces in this collection are arrangements from other string quartet movements. There follow a little-known piano movement, a song from Winterreise, a ‘trio’ transcription of a three-part vocal piece, and then five transcriptions from Schubert’s sacred music including what must be the best-known piece here: the Agnus Dei from the Mass in G. For recital use, the most important piece may be a transcription of the sketches of a B minor Andante from Schubert’s last symphony (in D, D936A), from short-score sketches that were only discovered in 1978 and that are almost completely worked out. Here is a piece of mature, idiosyncratic Schubert awaiting performance.
MASTERS OF THE QUEEN’S MUSIC
Peter Maxwell Davies
Chester Music CH81290 £5.95
This latest offering from the outgoing Master of the Queen’s Music is a substantial, generous work that shows Maxwell Davies’ undiminished compositional energy and reaffirms his lifelong commitment to the organ. Commissioned for the 2013 City of London Festival and first performed at St Paul’s Cathedral by Simon Johnson, Capstone makes full use both of the breadth of the instrument’s palette and the building’s spacious acoustic. From the opening grand crescendo, through a series of arching phrases anchored over strong pedal points, mercurial contrapuntal gestures and moments of stillness, to the triumphant return of the opening gesture that finally melts away into the furthest corners of the building, this is a commanding work of great depth that demands serious respect from organists and listeners.
THE WILD REEDS [D]
Chester Music CH80795 £9.95
Just as the outgoing Master of the Queen’s Music produces a fine new work for the organ, so does the new incumbent of the post. The Wild Reeds was commissioned by Thomas Trotter and first performed by him at Birmingham City Hall in 2013 to mark his 30th year as the city’s organist. The title calls to mind two works written for Michael Bonaventure in the early 1980s, Ettrick Banks and Wild Mossy Mountains, and this new work does indeed retain a sense of wide, remote landscapes, though the tonal language is a little more forgiving and the textures are less fragmented. The work is a set of six variations on a theme inspired by eastern European folk music for outdoor instruments: parallel harmonies and ecstatic figurations abound but ultimately this is a delicate, touching work that will satisfy experienced organists and audiences.
MORE CONTEMPORARY IDIOMS
PETER’S MIRACULOUS CATCH OF FISH [M]
Reading the composer’s preface to this work, the phrase ‘the piece was first started … when I was at school and was about thirty bars long’ did not initially inspire confidence, but further exploration reveals a charming and well-argued piece. Dissonance abounds but is well controlled; mysterious chords alternate with muscular counterpoint to create a colourful exploration of the biblical tale of the title. This would be a fine piece for liturgical or recital use.
A FANSYE [M/D]
Doblinger (U.E.) 02 497 £11.95
This reviewer has long since been an advocate of the music of the Innsbruck-based Kurt Estermann, and I am pleased to see this new addition to the catalogue. This work was composed in 2010 to mark both the 500th anniversary of the Van Covelens instrument at Alkmaar and also the 450th anniversary of Innsbruck’s Ebert organ, and joins the canon of new music that explores the possibilities of historical instruments. As the title suggests, it takes the form of a 16th-century keyboard ‘Fancy’, taking delight in ‘deforming’ (as the composer puts it in his preface) the conventions of the genre structurally, harmonically, figuratively and rhythmically. Great fun!
VOLUNTARIES WITH PEDALS
FANTASIE-SONATE AND TWO PRELUDES Op.83 [M/D]
Edition Dohr 11422 (U.E.) £12.95
Hesse’s Op.83 begins with two short preludes, one in E flat major, the other in C minor. Both are interesting, not difficult, and useful as voluntaries. The Fantasie-Sonate is a totally different kettle of fish. Written as a continuous movement, it divides into five sections, some of which could be played separately, though this would do a degree of violence to the concept of the work. Christian Vitalis, the editor, comments that Hesse ‘strives to resemble Bach but incorporates contemporary influences’. This fine work will be well worth the practice needed. A two-manual organ will do, but the bigger the better.
SYMPHONIC PIECE [D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £8.00
The Swedish organist Harald Fryklof might well be better known to church musicians if he had not died in1919 at the age of 36, just a few months after he became organist of Stockholm’s ‘Great Church’ Storkyrkan. David Patrick describes Fryklof’s admiration for the harmonic imagination of Reger and the classical purity of Nielsen. This piece is certainly ‘symphonic’: the opening is dramatic, and then unfolds by contrast between this and ‘pastorale tranquillo’ sections and a ripely romantic Adagio. But overall it is surging, exciting drive of the opening material that wins through and brings the work to a majestic conclusion.
LEICHTE ORGELWERKE (EASY ORGAN WORKS) [E]
ed. Hans-Peter Bähr
Dr J. Butz BU 2627 15.00€
There are 28 pieces of varying length, conveniently arranged in groups of keys. The shorter items, often only a page long, are useful as easily-read gap-fillers for those of us whose improvisational skills are less than admirable. The usual collection of Versets, Marches, pieces for Communion and Sorties makes up the book, some more attractive than others. The longer items are more satisfying to play, but don’t expect the fireworks of the major well-known works. I particularly liked the longer Verse on page 42 - the pieces are unfortunately not numbered – and the Sortie on page 12. This is a handy collection for the pianist turned organist and useful to have around.
Dr J. Butz BU 2615 13.00€
This is a pleasant addition to the earlier books (Collage, Mosaik and Contrasts). The composer explains that he has written in a ‘broadly romantic’ idiom; the pieces are well suited for use as voluntaries, for teaching and for recitals. Of the six, the opening ‘Trumpet Tune’ has a good, strong melody and is certainly not run of the mill; ‘Prelude on an old Irish Tune’ is a very likeable essay on St Columba. This book is worth having on the console.
HYMN PRELUDE ON THE PASSION CHORALE (Galatians 6.1)
MEDITATION AND VARIATIONS ON ‘PICARDY’
Fagus-music.com £3.00 and £5.00
Trevor Webb reviewed Stephen Burtonwood’s Meditation and Two Preludes on the Passion Chorale in CMQ, March 2014. As it did for J.S. Bach, the chorale attracts the composer back for fresh treatments, in this case a ‘Hymn Prelude’ starting quietly but with a crescendo over 12 bars to the main part of the piece, which is a fortissimo statement of the chorale tune (‘Largo e maestoso’) with thick chords (much doubling between RH and LH and between LH and pedals) in the composer’s reharmonization. The fortissimo remains until a suddenly quiet, five-bar coda. Galatians 6.1 is cited on the music (a verse which includes ‘in a spirit of gentleness’) and one wonders whether there is a personal message contained within the music – no programme note or other hint is given. But if you have a context within your Holy Week music for such an approach, then do play it!
The Meditation and Variations on ‘Picardy’, also a tune that tends to inspire gentler treatments from other composers, is here presented ‘Lento maestoso’ and ‘dramatico con espressione’ and fortissimo to start, and the same to finish except that it is now triple forte. There are two quiet variations, including an attractive one with a quasi-canonic 4-foot pedal melody, but the overall effect is dramatic and bold, not to say aggressive.
TWO SCOTTISH PIECES: Celtic Elegy and A Tribute to John Hope, Trumpeter
Here are two well-written and effective pieces. The Celtic Elegy has a wistful lyricism, with a touch of anguish in its central section. The Tribute to John Hope is a rollicking trumpet tune, disturbingly catchy, that deserves to become popular.
THREE PIECES: Scherzo Symphonique Concertant, Jubilant March, Prelude and Fugue in G minor
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £10.00
Faulkes composed some 800 organ pieces, of which around 500 were published. Now much neglected, his music is often described as sentimental/ However, for this little collection, David Patrick has chosen three pieces to which that description could not be applied. The Scherzo has a forward momentum that carries one along with it. The Jubilant March is what its title says – I will add this to my collection of pieces to suggest for wedding marches where ‘something different’ is requested. The fugue looks rather dry at first, but has some delightful episodes and a ‘big’ last 20 bars that would demand applause.