Music Notes for Trinity Sunday


Nick-Morris-GBA_3579I am delighted that Nicholas Morris will be returning to St. Thomas’ to play for the Trinity Sunday services and the 10.30AM service on Trinity I. He will also give a recital on Sunday afternoon, May 22, at 5.00PM. Please come to support him.

Nicholas is no stranger to Houston, having come to play for us during Holy Week and Easter in 2014 while he was an undergraduate and organ scholar at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Upon graduating from Cambridge, he took up a place at Birmingham Conservatoire, where he earned his MMus degree and Artist’s Diploma being taught by Henry Fairs. While continuing his studies in Birmingham, he was Assistant Organist at Birmingham Cathedral. He will be returning to England to take up the post of Assistant Organist at Clare College, Cambridge.

In an interesting aside, Nicholas’s grandfather, Christopher Morris (1922-2015), was the music editor at Oxford University Press who commissioned the now world-renowned Carols for Choirs, first published in 1961.

Please take time to welcome Nicholas back to St. Thomas’.



Herbert Howells Collegium Regale (Te Deum)

howells-herbert-1892-1983Written just before the end of the Second World War, when Howells (1892-1983) was acting organist at St John’s College in the absence of Robin Orr, the setting of the morning canticles for King’s College, Cambridge (Collegium Regale) is a masterly work. The combination of unison writing, which is juxtaposed with harmonic sections and swift harmonic rhythm maintains the interest of both listener and performer in this long text.

Howells was a composition pupil at the Royal College of Music (RCM) under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) but unlike Stanford, and later on, Dyson, Howells chose a different compositional path. His work is very much in the vein of the French impressionists: his use of the minor third and jazz chords ensured he developed a unique compositional style. He went on to be director of music at St. Paul’s School for girls in London, following on from the composer of The Planets Suite and fellow RCM student, Gustav Holst (1874-1934). Howells later went on the become professor of composition at the RCM. He refused a knighthood but was made a Companion of Honour (CH).

A recording of the the Te Deum sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge under the direction of Sir David Willcocks may be found here:
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César Franck Tantum ergo

Franck-César-1822-1890César Franck (1822-1890) was born in Liège in what is now Belgium. He studied privately with teachers in Paris from 1835, and after a brief return to Belgium, embarked upon a career as a teacher and organist back in the French capital. He quickly gained a formidable reputation as an improviser and travelled widely demonstrating new instruments built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899). In 1858 he became organist of St. Clothilde, and in 1872 he became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Louis Vierne (1870-1937), Charles Tournemire (1870-1939), and Henri Duparc (1848-1933).

Franck’s Tantum ergo is a beautiful setting of a Eucharistic hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). The first verse (‘Tantum ergo’) is sung as a baritone solo while the choir joins in to embellish the second verse (‘Genitori, genitoque’).

A recording, sung by the choir of All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street in London, may be found here:
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266 Holy, Holy, Holy NICAEA
272 Thou whose almighty word MOSCOW
199 Now, my tongue the mystery telling ST. THOMAS
198 O God, unseen yet ever near PENETENTIA
268 I bind unto myself today ST. PATRICK’S BREASTPLATE



Dyson in D

(c) BRIDGEMAN; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) BRIDGEMAN; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(Sir) George Dyson (1883-1964) was born and brought up in Halifax in Yorkshire. He was a student at the RCM where he studied composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) and in 1905, he won the much-coveted Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to study in Italy and Germany. It was during this period that he wrote his setting of the Evening Canticles (Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis) in D major, inscribed ‘Dresden 1907’. Heavily influenced by both Brahms and Wagner, it is a work of symphonic proportions.

Upon returning the England, he joined the Royal Fusiliers at the outbreak of the Great War and wrote a booklet on the use of hand grenades, which was widely used. He was invalided out of the army with shell-shock. In 1921, having recovered, he took up posts as music master at Wellington College in conjunction with his post as professor of composition at the RCM in succession to Stanford. He was director of music at Winchester College before being appointed as Director of the RCM, the first former student to be so honoured. He received the knighthood in 1941 and was made KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) in 1953.

A recording of the Magnificat sung by the choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral may be found here:
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A recording of the Nunc Dimittis sung by the choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral may be found here:
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Sir John Stainer I saw the Lord

stainer-john-1840-1901Sir John Stainer (1840-1901) was initially a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral under Sir John Goss (1800-1880) and was an organ pupil with (Sir) Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) of George Cooper (1820-1876) who himself was assistant organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral. At the age of sixteen Stainer was appointed organist at the newly-founded St. Michael’s College, Tenbury Wells, which had been founded by the Reverend Professor Sir Frederick Arthur Gore-Ouseley Bart as the model for Anglican church music. A bastion of the Oxford movement, Ouseley was Heather Professor of Music at Oxford and himself an antiquarian with an extensive library. He passed on his passion for music history to Stainer, who himself became a pioneering musicologist, and, in turn, organist of Magdalen College, Oxford, professor of Music at Oxford in succession to Ouseley, and organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where he revolutionized the music. He was, briefly, principal of the London’s National Training School for Music (the pre-cursor to the RCM) and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools.

I saw the Lord was composed in 1858 when Stainer was only 18 years of age, but the piece was not published until 1865 when it was accepted by Novello and Sons. The first and second sections of the piece are a vivid exposition for double (eight-part) choir of Isaiah’s visionary text: this gives way in the final section to a gentle fugue where Stainer sets the words of the third verse of Ave, colenda Trinitas, an anonymous, eleventh-century Latin hymn, translated by John David Chambers (1803-1893).

A recording sung by the choir of New College, Oxford may be found here:
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576 Come, Labor on ORA LABORA
179 The Day thou gavest, Lord, is ended ST. CLEMENT