Music Notes for Trinity I

Please once again welcome Nick Morris, joining us from England, who will conduct the choir in today’s service. For more about Nick, please see the Notes for Trinity Sunday.



Sir Charles Villiers Stanford Jubilate from the Morning Service in B flat major.

Stanford-Charles-Villiers-1852-1924The Service in B flat, Op 10, marked a major step forward in Stanford’s setting of the morning and evening canticles. As a composer he had fully assimilated the symphonic intellectualism of Brahms as evidenced by his first Symphony (1876), the Cello Sonata, Op 9 (1877), the Violin Sonata, Op 11 (1877), and the Piano Quartet, Op 15 (1879), and looked to adapt this compositional approach to the setting of familiar canticle texts and the ordinary of the communion service. In bringing an instrumental orientation to the music of the Anglican liturgy, Stanford challenged the accepted norm of ‘choral’ primacy where emphasis on the words, the clarity of their delivery, meaning and, most of all, their comprehension was paramount. This is not to say that Stanford (any more than his hero Brahms) ignored the textual dimension—far from it—but other issues, such as the sense of musical and structural cohesion came to warrant equal consideration. To add weight to this change of emphasis, the organ was emancipated from its customary accompanimental role and, building on the example of Walmisley’s Evening Service in D minor, assumed instead one of quasi-orchestral character. This not only suited Stanford’s own colourful style of organ-playing inherited from Stewart, but also exploited the resources of the new instrument at Trinity. A further feature of the Service in B flat is the parallel drawn between the various canticles and conventional symphonic movement style-forms. The Te Deum is, for example, analogous in tempi and treatment to a first-movement Allegro, the Magnificat, a Scherzo (a ternary structure in which the Gloria functions as a recapitulation) and the Nunc dimittis, a slow movement. Other unifying elements include the repetition of the Gloria (in the Benedictus, Jubilate Deo and Nunc dimittis), the cyclic reference to common material and specific tonalities (notably D flat and C major) shared among the individual movements, and, special to the Service in B flat, the prevalence of Gregorian material (for example, the intonation to the Te Deum and the ‘Dresden Amen’ used in the Gloria).

Professor Jeremy Dibble
University of Durham, 1997


Charles Wood O thou, the central orb

wood-charles-1866-1926The Irish composer and teacher, Charles Wood (1866-1926), was born in the cathedral precincts at Armagh, where his father was a Lay-Vicar Choral in the cathedral choir. Wood received his early musical education at the cathedral school before being one of the first intake of students at the Royal College of Music, where his teachers were the musical luminaries, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) and Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918). From 1889 he took up a Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and from 1894 was Director of Music and Organist. From 1924, he succeeded Stanford as Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Composition at the RCM. His pupils were: Vaughan Williams at Cambridge and Herbert Howells at the RCM.

Like Stanford and Howells, Wood is best known for his Anglican church music, which he only began composing towards the end of his life, much of it being published posthumously. His setting of O thou, the central orb was written in 1915 and is a setting of a text by Henry Ramsden Bramley (1833-1917). It is a well-crafted work in three sections.


557 Onward Christian Soldiers ST GERTRUDE
There is a fountain filled with blood THERE IS A FOUNTAIN
301 Immortal, invisible God only wise ST DENIO