Music Notes: Trinity 20

At St. Thomas’, we offer the service of Morning Prayer on the second Sunday of each month and Choral Evensong from September through May. Herewith, notes for the music you will hear at these two services.



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

Stanford-Charles-Villiers-1852-1924[It was on] 25 May 1879 when [Stanford’s] Jubilate Deo and Te Deum in B flat, Op 10, were first sung at Matins. Later the same year, during the long vacation, the Te Deum was sung again with the Benedictus on the morning of 24 August and the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis were sung in the evening. The 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 [the Irish organist, composer and conductor, Sir Robert Prescott] Stewart [1825-1894], 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).

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1997



Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585)                                      If ye love me

Tallis-Thomas-1505-1585-400x396Thomas Tallis is the musical embodiment of the English Reformation. He lived and worked during some of the most turbulent times in England. He served as court musician at the Chapel Royal in London under four monarchs (Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I) with vastly differing religious and musical imperatives. While most of his works were set in Latin, Tallis was among the first generation of composers to set English texts to music from Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer and Miles Coverdale’s translation of the Bible. A formidable contrapuntist, Tallis’s works demonstrate a wide variety of styles from those of intense and complex expressivity to those, like this morning’s anthem, which were written to conform to Edward VI’s (or rather the Duke of Somerset’s) injunction that choral music should be brief and succinct, ‘to each syllable a plain and distinct note’. The text is from John 14: 15-17.


285      The God of Abraham Praise                  LEONI

190      Let thy blood in mercy poured               LUISE

427      Thine for ever, God of love                   NEWINGTON


The tune NEWINGTON is possibly unfamiliar to members of the congregation. A recording of hymn 190 (Thine for ever, God of Love), sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge may be found here:



Philip Radcliffe (1905-1986)

radcliffe-phillip-1905-1986The Cambridge composer and musicologist, Philip Fitzhugh Radcliffe had been a classical scholar at King’s College. He changed to study music during the course of his studies, becoming a Fellow at King’s in 1931, and a university lecturer in 1947. His sympathies lay with the music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, copious amounts of which he memorised with astonishing ease. A boundless curiosity did not deteriorate with the passing of the years. He contributed many articles to Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians including the article on Brahms, and chapters for The New Oxford History of Music. The Preces and Responses were composed for the annual Festival of Music within the Liturgy at Edington in Wiltshire in 1972. They are a particularly beautiful and sensitive setting of these familiar words.


Herbert Howells Collegium Regale

A recording of the Magnificat, sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge may be found here:

A recording of the Nunc Dimittis, sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge may be found here:

howells-herbert-1892-1983Howells’s unique contribution to the music of the Anglican Church began in earnest in 1944 when he won a bet (one guinea!) from the Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, which provided the College choir with a new setting of the Te Deum. This laid down a template in sound which was to see cathedral organists queuing up to secure their own piece of Howells. The Collegium Regale Magnificat and Nunc dimittis have rightly become the most celebrated settings of the twentieth century. They follow Howells’s stated feelings to the letter: ‘… if I made a setting of the Magnificat, the mighty should be put down from their seat without a brute force which would deny this canticle’s feminine association. Equally, that in the Nunc dimittis, the tenor’s domination should characterize the gentle Simeon. Only the Gloria should raise its voice.’ The Magnificat opens with upper voices (suitably representing Mary) singing in an almost recitative-like way. The altos are scored to enrich the texture at ‘For behold, from henceforth’, and the tenors and basses only join at ‘He hath shewn strength with his arm’. The Gloria, surely amongst the most ecstatic utterances we possess, does indeed raise its voice in the manner of a true doxology.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Geistliches Leid Op. 30

A recording, sung by the Stuttgart Chamber Choir may be found here:

Portrait of Johannes Brahms (Hamburg, 1833-Vienna, 1897), German conductor and composer, Engraving

Composed in 1856 when he was 23 years old, Geistliches Leid (Sacred Song) is Brahms’s earliest accompanied choral work. It combines a formidable contrapuntal facility with breath-taking delicacy.  The organ introduction gives way to a double canon between soprano and tenor, followed by alto and bass. For the central section, Brahms re-works a number of ideas from the outer sections, juxtaposing major and minor keys before making a return to the opening material for the final stanza of Paul Fleming’s (1609-1640) poem. For the Amen, the canon is reversed, with bass and alto entering first, followed by soprano and tenor.

Along with Martin Opitz (1597-1639), Andreas Gryphus (1616-1664), Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau (1616-1679) and Daniel Casper von Lohenstein (1635-1683), Paul Fleming is one of the writers now called ‘The Silesian Poets’. A German physician, hymn-writer, and the leading poet of his day, he supplied the texts for a number of J. S. Bach’s cantatas (BWV 13, BWV 44, & BWV 97).

Fleming was immersed in the Lutheran tradition, having been educated in Leipzig, first at the Thomasschule and subsequently at the university there. He was a medic by training but there is no evidence he practised medicine.


487      Saviour again to thy dear name we raise ELLERS

166      Sun of my soul                                       ABENDS


Dr Giles Brightwell