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Sample audio clip – Howells: Magnificat
1. Kyrie: Mass Collegium Regale – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
2. Gloria: Mass Collegium Regale – Howells
3. Sanctus: Mass Collegium Regale – Howells
4. Benedictus: Mass Collegium Regale – Howells
5. Agnus Dei: Mass Collegium Regale – Howells
6. Paean: Howells
7. Magnificat: St. Paul’s Service – Howells
8. Nunc dimittis: St. Paul’s Service – Howells
9. Lead, kindly light: William Harris (1883-1973)
10. Saraband for the morning of Easter: Howells*
11. O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: Howells
12. Behold, the tabernacle of God: Harris
13. Come down, O love divine: Harris
14. Holy Spirit, ever dwelling: Howells
15. Psalm 42: Howells
16. Faire is the heaven: Harris
Andrew Shenton, organ*
© 2001, Andrew Shenton
Howells and Harris
Herbert Howells and William Harris were two of the most influential composers of sacred music in the twentieth century. Both eschewed writing in modern idiom and continued in the Anglican tradition established by the previous generation of Stanford, Parry and Wood, providing music of great beauty and emotional depth which still enhances worship.
Howells received a number of commissions from renowned religious institutions in England; when writing for them, he took into consideration not only the choir, but also the building itself. His setting of the Office of Holy Communion: Collegium Regale (for King’s College, Cambridge) was written in 1956. He also wrote a set of
Morning and Evening Canticles for King’s College that share much of the same musical material.
Howells is particularly noted for his organ music. The Paean was published as one of a set of six pieces in 1949.lt is a triumphant and jubilant hymn of praise in toccata style.
Evensong is said or sung every day in English cathedrals, producing a great demand for musical settings of the two principal canticles, the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. Howells wrote several sets, including commissions for Gloucester, Worcester, King’s College, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (St. Paul’s Service) was published in 1954 and reflects in its slow moving harmonies the vast acoustics of St. Paul’s.
As well as service music and anthems, composers have written other music for the Anglican liturgy including hymn tunes and special chants for singing psalms in the Anglican manner. Harris’s beautiful hymn tune Alberta was written for the text “Lead, kindly light” by John Henry Newman.
The second solo organ piece on this disc is the Saraband (For the morning of Easter) by Howells. Published along with the Paean in 1949, it takes the traditional three-beat dance form and turns it into an extended musical essay on the triumph of the resurrection.
O Pray for the peace of Jerusalem by Howells is a setting of verses six and seven of Psalm 122. It was published in 1943 as one of a collection of four anthems that includes the popular Like as the Hart. Harris composed Behold, the tabernacle of God for the opening of the headquarters of The Royal School of Church Music at Addington Palace. It employs the text of the Sarum antiphon for the dedication of a church. His anthem Come down, O love divine sets a popular hymn text by Bianco da Siena in an English translation by R. F. Littledale.
One of the most charming hymn tunes by Howells is his setting of Timothy Rees’s text “Holy Spirit, ever dwelling.” The exquisite chant in B flat minor by Howells is eminently suitable for the yearning described in the words of Psalm 42, which begins: “Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God.”
Finally, one of the most enduring pieces in the repertoire is the setting by Harris of Edmund Spenser’s text “Faire is the heaven.” Set for eight-part unaccompanied choir it is sublimely beautiful in its evocation of heaven