Music Notes for Trinity 25 (Veterans’ Sunday)



Benedictus from the Morning Service in B flat major
by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

Stanford-Charles-Villiers-1852-1924The composition of the Morning and Evening service in B flat major ‘went on to transform the world of Anglican church music conceptually, stylistically, and aesthetically, and would act as a central model for new generations of church composers well into the future.’ Jeremy Dibble’s analysis in his monograph, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Man and Musician hits the nail on the head. The Brahmsian accent, which also brought a more operatic style to church music of the late-Victorian era, was a welcome innovation. The B flat major service was written in three stages during the course of 1879 with the Benedictus being sung side by side with the Te Deum from 24 August that year and the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were sung in the Evening.


Greater love hath no man than this
by John Ireland (1879-1962)

ireland-john-1879-1962John Ireland was a student under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at London’s Royal College of Music. He went on to become successively, organist at two London churches, St Luke’s Chelsea and Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, both of which had men and boys’ choirs that sang daily Evensong in the English cathedral tradition. Ireland went on to succeed Stanford as professor of Composition at the RCM, a post to which he was appointed in 1923.

Greater love was written in 1912 as the second of his church anthems. A meditation for Passiontide (and more generally the theme of sacrifice), Ireland drew on an existing compilation of passages from the Old and New Testament contained within a booklet given to him by his mother, Daily Light on the Daily Path. Ireland read these regularly and the text of Greater love was that set for October 3. It has since become a standard work sung on Remembrance Sunday (the Sunday nearest Armistice Day, November 11).


289 O God, our help in ages past ST ANNE
408 Take my life and let it be HOLLINSIDE
563 He, who would valiant be MONKS GATE

The tune for Hymn 563 He, who would valiant be (MONKS GATE) may be unfamiliar to some parishioners. A recording of the hymn, sung by the choir of Salisbury Cathedral, may be found here:



The Evening Service in B flat major by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (see above).


They that go down to the sea in ships by Herbert Sumsion

sumsion-herbert-1899-1995Sumsion was born and brought up in Gloucester, where he was a chorister in the cathedral choir, where he encountered for the first time the music of Britain’s oldest festival, the Three Choirs’ Festival. When his voice changed he left the choir to become an articled pupil (organist’s apprentice) to the cathedral organist, Dr Herbert Brewer, following in the footsteps of Herbert Howells, Ivor Novello, and Ivor Gurney. Having served in the Great War, Sumsion returned to Gloucester as assistant organist. Already with a Durham music degree in hand, he went on to study composition with Sir Adrian Boult at the RCM. In 1928 Brewer died suddenly of a heart attack and Sumsion returned to Gloucester to succeed him in a post he held until 1967. During his time at Gloucester and he occupied an influential role as leader of the Three Choirs’ Festival, which brought him into contact with Sir Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Gustav Holst, and the Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály.

As a composer, Sumsion wrote a set of Preces and Responses for the choir of Durham Cathedral, as well as several settings of the Evensong canticles. His setting of words from Psalm 107: 23-30, They that go down to the sea in ships was written in 1979 for Dennis Kiddy and the choir of Repton Preparatory School in Derbyshire. As William McVicker says, ‘The piece unfolds with a remarkable economy of material: a rippling, listless organ part with an attractive solo melody; rising and falling choral writing and later imitative writing, mostly developed over long-held organ pedal-notes and through changes in tempo—an object lesson in the development of musical material.’


All my hope on God is founded MICHAEL
I vow to thee my country THAXTED

Dr Giles Brightwell