Handwashers’ Newsletter 7th February 2021
We are once again running short of material for these Newsletters, and may soon be reduced to showing you our holiday snaps, so please dig in your musical memory bank (you all have one) and send contributions to email@example.com Don’t bother with finding visual or musical illustrations; we can do that.
Yesterday was the Accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II, so I am sharing this beautiful anthem by William Byrd which, for obvious reasons, is often sung at this time.
Byrd was one of the leading composers of the Renaissance in this country, writing both sacred and secular, instrumental and vocal music. He joined Queen Elizabeth’s Chapel Royal in 1572, and probably wrote this anthem a few years later. The text comes from Psalm 21, but has been customised to address Elizabeth by name. Following her death in 1603, the words were traditionally changed to match the name of each succeeding monarch. Since 1952 this clearly has not been necessary! It is scored for six voices, including two alto and two tenor parts.
This performance was made by the Tallis Scholars and includes the score for you to follow. You may even fancy singing along yourself!
RADIO 3’S MUSICAL MAP OF BRITAIN AND PARRY’S INVOCATION TO MUSIC from Andy:
In 2013 Radio 3 launched a project to map musical activity across Britain, inviting listeners to request a pin in the map for noteworthy items. Twelve categories, each with a different coloured pin, were covered sequentially over several months, resulting in a densely packed multi-coloured map that can be deciphered on zooming in. It’s still accessible here: http://r3maps.herokuapp.com/locations/popup and provides a source of entertainment for idle moments.
As a result of making a couple of submissions to the map, we were able to give the Society and Sir Hubert Parry a timely mention.
(If the map doesn’t work for you these are the texts of Andy’s Submissions for Parry piece Ed.)
Many of you will remember our 150th Anniversary concert in May that year with its all-Parry programme, including as the main work his Invocation to Music. This is a rarely performed work, as demonstrated by the fact that the scores from Novello were printed to order from the original 1895 publication, but one which most, if not all, concerned felt deserved more recognition. Roger Jones, the Gloucestershire Echo’s classical music critic, thought so too, concluding his review with: “Rather than stick to more familiar pieces conductor Carleton Etherington took us on a journey of discovery, giving some neglected, yet magnificent, music by an eminent son of Gloucestershire the kind of performance it really deserves.” He obviously liked our rendition of the fourth movement in which “the turbulence of the sea was evoked to stunning effect by choir and orchestra.”
Parry in his element
A keen sailor, Parry knew all about monstrous seas, so when it came to the ‘Sea and Coast’ category of the musical map, I suggested a pin for Parry off Shoreham in East Sussex; have a look at the pin to see what prompted that. Petroc duly obliged, playing the movement from the only recording of the work by the London Philharmonic Choir. Perhaps not surprisingly that’s not on Youtube but you can listen to the opening of each movement on the Chandos website: https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%209025. This will give you a flavour if you weren’t singing with us then or may have forgotten it (surely not!). You’ll find our historical link with Parry mentioned in the CCS pin under the Choral category.
There are, however, Youtube versions of the other pieces in our 2013 concert mentioned by Andy:
I was glad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjBqBD87g30 from Ely Cathedral where, incidentally, the ceiling was painted by Parry’s father, Thomas Gambier Parry’.
Hear My Words, Ye People https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds00exfnPHM
Lady Radnor’s Suite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q5oO2pX7_M which was played by our orchestra.
BACH IN ICELAND a surprise for Tim and Lorna:
In the summer of 2005, we went on a birding trip to Iceland. Fortunately, our local guide, Trausti Gunnerson, was not only a great naturalist, but also a knowledgeable geologist, an expert on Icelandic Sagas and, as we discovered on the final day, was interested in music.
I won’t bore you with our holiday snaps, mainly of birds, whales, volcanoes and old geysers but you may enjoy this tale which Trausti told us as we drove past a particular village: The Priest and the Troll
On the final morning, a Sunday, we visited the Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik:
This magnificent modern Church represents volcanic basalt columns which are commonplace in Iceland. Inside, we were immediately impressed by the splendid organ which dominates the east end.
Klaisorgan by Johannes Klais Organworks, Bonn in Reykjavik
As the congregation for morning service began to arrive, Trausti told us that he had been there the previous evening for a recital given by the visiting ‘top organist in Denmark’. Then, ‘Ah, look this is him.’ as the organist mounted the console and began to play what we took to be improvisations on Bach chorales. After we’d enjoyed perhaps 20 minutes of beautiful improvisation he introduced the first hymn, ‘All Glory Lord and Honour’ to the usual tune, St Theodulph harmonised by JSB:
I was ready to join in with the bass line but was completely disorientated by the Icelandic words and Trausti wisely ushered us quietly out as the service started: we had a plane to catch!
I don’t remember the name of the Danish organist, but here is Dutch organist, Jos van der Kooy playing and improvising Bach on the great Baroque Müller organ, built in 1738, of Sint Bavokerk in Haarlem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDDk8htYGNM
And now for something only a little bit different: Having mentioned great organs in Reykjavik and Haarlem we now come closer to home: Minchinhampton where yet another famous musician describes a rather more modest instrument:
AND FINALLY . . .
We hope Jane enjoys Iceland as much as we did!
(And we’d better mention Lidl, M&S and Waitrose as well.)