English Cathedral Music: The Long Nineteenth Century to the Present
For Abstract of Keynote Address, see Keynote Speaker page.
"How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land? (Psalm 137: 4): The English Cathedral Music Tradition in Australia."
Abstract: For about 130-150 years from the beginning of white settlement in Australia in 1788 most inhabitants considered themselves to be British or vicariously British. The majority of these were nominally aligned to the Church of England. As the disparate and geographically dispersed colonial centres grew and cities developed, the organisation of the Church of England into dioceses and the appointment of bishops inevitably led to the establishment of cathedrals. With the building of metropolitan cathedrals in Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane, ad hoc attempts were made to emulate the musical tradition that obtained in Britain, which by the middle of the nineteenth century was undergoing a revival and reform. With one exception, that of St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne, there was no statutory provision at the outset for a professional music foundation. The establishment and preservation of the English music tradition, including its repertoire, has been to a great extent due to the interest, support, and enthusiasm of clergymen (Deans and Bishops) coupled with the expertise of organists, and the attitudes of influential members of the laity, a situation which was as volatile as it was uncertain. In recent times the tradition has in some places survived by the skin of its teeth and in others has been destroyed or replaced. This paper will outline the vicissitudes of English cathedral music in Australia from its beginnings to the present, and examine and attempt to justify its appropriateness in the light of the country's way of life, and its changing culture and mentality.
"S. Royle Shore's Cathedral Series and the Tudor Church Music Edition in Context."
Abstract: The 10-volume Tudor Church Music edition published by the Carnegie Trust in the 1920s can be seen as the culmination of the revival of interest in early English church music that began in the 1880s. This series was, however, preceded by the less successful but in many ways no less ambitious 'Cathedral Series of Church Service Music, Chiefly Polyphonic and Unpublished of the 16th and early 17th centuries', edited by the Birmingham-based solicitor S. Royle Shore.
In 1899, Richard Runciman Terry, who in 1916 would be appointed the first editor of the Tudor Church Music edition, published a series of articles on the history of English church music, in which he argued, with more vigour than accuracy, that all of the best Anglican anthems from the 16th and early 17th centuries were merely adaptations from Latin originals. This argument was largely accepted at the time, but over the next decade, Shore set about collecting copies of Anglican works that would refute Terry's theories, and allow him to reclaim early English polyphony for the Anglican Church. He began publishing the fruits of his research in the Cathedral Series in 1912.
This paper will examine the relationship between these two very different attempts to publish, and in the process define, the corpus of early English church music. It will look at the reasons for the lack of success of Shore's venture, but also at the ways in which it foreshadowed the Tudor Church Music edition.
"The BBC and English Cathedral Music: 1922 – 1931."
Abstract: As one of the main cultural forces of the 20th Century, the BBC has both reflected and shaped listening habits, and performance practices in Britain. This is as true for English cathedral music as it is for other forms of music. The choice of music, the standard, manner of performance, and the setting in which the music has been performed have all played an important part in shaping the expectations of listeners. A study of the BBC's programming of cathedral music is therefore vital if we are to understand how perceptions of English cathedral music were formed in the early decades of the century, and lends insights into the tradition, many of which still resonate today.
During the first ten years of broadcasting, the cathedral tradition became established as a key element in the BBC's schedule of religious broadcasts and a firm favourite with listeners. Initially, however, cathedral services did not play such an important part in the BBC's religious programmes and were even deliberately shunned by the religious policy makers. The rise in popularity of these broadcasts and their gradual acceptance by the BBC and its audience is a fascinating subject.
By studying the creation and development of the BBC's policies and aims for religious broadcasting, its relationship and negotiations with the churches and the practicalities which governed the making of religious programmes, I shall uncover the motives, decisions and circumstances which formed the early religious schedules and the place of cathedral music broadcasts within these.
"Samuel Sebastian Wesley: The Last of the Old, or the First of the New?"
Abstract: The figure of Samuel Sebastian Wesley bestrode English cathedral music of the mid 19th century like a colossus, but his historical position is equivocal. Did he represent the final flowering of an old school, or was he the standard bearer for a new era? In some respects he was both: at the beginning of his career he was considered an out and out representative of the avant garde, while by his death he was seen as a worthy upholder of old traditions. This paper will look at aspects of Wesley's church music, notably his harmonic idiom, contrapuntal writing, and word setting, in the context of the English cathedral tradition, but also against a wider European background. Comparisons with the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann will reveal unexpected links with the latter which suggest that, had Wesley not been artistically isolated in the English provinces, he could potentially have made a significant contribution to the European Romantic tradition.
"Canadian by Adoption: Healey Willan's Sacred Music."
Abstract: When Healey Willan arrived in Canada in 1913 at age 33, he suspected that fate had arranged something spectacular for him. His superstitions turned out to be correct since he would soon be regarded as "the Dean of Canadian composers". In his compositional style and his mannerisms, however, he remained quintessentially British.
Willan's appointment at the Church of St. Paul in Toronto inspired large accompanied works in the English Cathedral tradition for the cavernous acoustic of Canada's largest Anglican church building. But by 1921 relationships with clergy had deteriorated to such a degree that Willan sought out a new situation where his Anglo-Catholic faith could find uninhibited expression. Thus began a forty-six year association with the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene as organist, choirmaster and precentor. Willan's compositions changed radically for this humble building blessed with an ethereal acoustic and hazy with incense. Willan found a suitable new compositional style inspired by Gregorian chant and the Renaissance masters.
In his later years Willan revisited his post-romantic English tendencies. Missa Brevis XII evokes Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, and a decade later Willan composed a Gloria and Credo for this Mass. Preserved in manuscript in the Canadian National Archive, these missing pieces were recently reunited with the three existing movements. The completed Mass XII had its first performance on Feb 16th 2008, the 40th anniversary of the composer's death. This paper will attempt to illuminate the true provenance of these newly discovered movements.
"'It is Very Modern, But I Think it Will Do': Elgar's Te Deum and Benedictus and the Creation of Modernist Cathedral Music."
Abstract: In his article of 1899 entitled, 'Music in Cathedral and Church Choirs', Stanford said of works within the church tradition that 'they have an atmosphere about them which affects every man who, from childhood, has known an English cathedral.' It is well documented that Elgar had attended the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral since he was a young boy, so if there was an expectation for any composer to produce works for the liturgy, you would be forgiven for thinking that it would have been Elgar. However, the canon of Elgar's music would not be seriously dented if the existing church music were lost. There is certainly much quality but the quantity is minimal and strongly biased towards his early, style-defining years. Yet, the works he composed for the church provide us with a clear insight into Elgar's young creative imagination and the wider church community at the time.
This paper seeks to address some of these issues through a close study of the Te Deum and Benedictus, a work largely ignored in favour of Elgar's larger oratorios. Sinclair's reaction to first hearing the work in 1896, 'It is very very modern, but I think it will do' will be analysed in light of the work's close motivic and thematic development, which so immediately point to Wagner's influence. Sinclair's reaction to the so-called 'modernist' aspect of the work sounds irredeemably provincial in the light of the sort of music being written in Europe around 1897, but it is precisely the mismatch between technique, material, function and expectation in the Te Deum and Benedictus that characterise the long story of modernity in music. Whilst critics ignored the work and put its self-indulgent chromaticism down as a hang-on from his developing orchestral style, this paper demonstrates that Elgar was in fact heralding a new style of church music in Britain and was about as modern a British composer as a conservative could possibly be.
"Self-Imposed Exile: Robert Lucas Pearsall - Craftsmanship, Historical Awareness, Crisis and Humour in Music for Formal Liturgy, Private Devotion and Social Pleasure 1845-1855."
Abstract: In this paper I explore several strands of a complex and sensitive soul; some aspects oppose, in quite fierce measure - others harmonize, like his polyphonic music, in sweet dissonances. Pearsall chose to reside in Switzerland, for a variety of reasons - health, family, a desire for an eremetic life; yet he maintained his links with England, and on a regular basis, feeding new compositions to the Bristol Madrigal Society (founded by him and others in 1837). W.F. Trimnell of Clifton College, Bristol maintained a link with Pearsall, and eventually was to publish the posthumous 'Sacred Compositions' (c.1880). These Anglican Anthems fuse ancient and modern with consummate skill, but belie the seriously 'catholic' works he was producing in St Gallen (his own 'Tu es Petrus' being a 'madrigale spirituale' re-working of his own, justly famous 8 part secular madrigal, 'Lay a garland'). And his own 'Requiem' (1854) must have played silently, in his mind alone, as he converted to Catholcism on his death-bed. Through his music I explore these contrasting, contradicting strands, exploring the dilemmas facing Pearsall as he strove to be true to faith, conviction and artistic judgment. In this he is a 'crucible' for the dilemmas many artists face in the middle years of the 19thC. I also suggest that in this man we have the essence of the 'Pre-Raphaelite Movement' in music - with the spiritual and secular demands and confusions working through his creativity.
Howells' Depersonalized Requiem.
Abstract: Twentieth-century Requiems come in all shapes and sizes: incorporating sacred or secular texts, employing small or large forces, bearing political, nationalistic, or liturgical connotations. The common thread underlying these pieces is their subject matter; a Requiem is implicitly understood as a personalized meditation on loss, intertwining sorrow, hope, reflection, and other emotions.
Placing Herbert Howells' Requiem amid these traditions is challenging. Initially considered a reaction to the death of Howells' son in 1936, the piece was actually composed in 1932 for King's College, Cambridge. Presumably aimed at liturgical performance, its form eschews the traditional Anglican scheme, adapted rather from Walford Davies' anti-war Short Requiem. Kept in hiding until 1980, parts of the piece were nevertheless incorporated into his Hymnus paradisi of 1938. Perhaps because it defies easy categorization, scholars tend to consider Howells' Requiem a transitional piece, extending the compositional language of earlier works or prefiguring the more overtly dramatic Hymnus paradisi. In this paper I argue the piece should instead be interpreted as an "objective," depersonalized expression of sorrow. In adapting the structure of Davies' Requiem, Howells neutralizes this piece's political content and uses characteristic aspects of compositional technique—impressionistic mood-painting, co-opting of Tudor devices, a declamatory approach to text setting—to create a rarity in this genre's tradition: a purely musical expression of sobriety. The effect is all the more remarkable because Howells' writings on other commemorative pieces reveal a strikingly traditional aesthetic attitude toward Requiem composition, one more fully achieved in these other pieces than in his own Requiem.
"Mendelssohn's Oratorios and Late Nineteenth-Century Cathedral Music."
Abstract: Excerpts from oratorios increasingly appeared in the repertory of English cathedral music in the late nineteenth century, as has been remarked by Nicholas Temperley. ("Cathedral Music," in The Athlone History of Music in Britain: The Romantic Age 1800-1914 [London: The Athlone Press, 1981], 180-1). Handel's Messiah was particularly in favor, but Temperley implies that other oratorios were also used. In English concert life of the 1880s and 1890s, Mendelssohn's oratorios, particularly Elijah, were among the most standard choral works in the repertoire—as canonic as Handel's works, and perhaps in the case of Elijah, even more so. As was noted in the February 1, 1889 Musical Times, "If "The Messiah" is peculiarly appropriate at Christmas time, "Elijah" is welcome all the year round." (The Musical Times, February 1, 1889, 92).
Mendelssohn's reputation as a composer had been strong in his lifetime, and while he was alive, he was particularly popular in Britain. Several of his works premiered in England, including the Hebrides Overture, the Italian Symphony, and Elijah. By the 1870s, however, there were doubts in the public mind as to whether Mendelssohn was truly deserving of his standing as a great composer, shown by the proliferation of criticism defending Mendelssohn's reputation. This paper will explore the extent to which excerpts from Mendelssohn's oratorios Elijah and St Paul also appeared in the cathedral music repertory of the late nineteenth century, and aspects of Mendelssohn's posthumous reputation in England that may have influenced and been influenced by this use.
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