Handwashers’ Newsletter 24th May 2020


We return to Gloucestershire this week for music by one my favourite composers, Herbert Howells. Howells was born in Lydney and was an articled pupil of Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral before studying at the Royal College of Music with Stanford. Later in life, he himself taught composition at the College. Although often considered primarily as a composer of church music, he wrote in many musical genres and it is good that some of his orchestral and chamber music has been given more prominence in recent years. That said, he remains arguably the most important voice in English Cathedral music during the twentieth century.

Howells also wrote many songs for voice and piano and this week I share with you the most celebrated of these, ‘King David’, a setting of words by Walter de la Mare.

This lovely performance is by Kitty Whateley who, incidentally, is the daughter of actor Kevin Whateley (of Morse/Lewis fame!). https://youtu.be/sxzQXcM2p0M

LUX AETERNA Thank you, Catherine Bagnall for this beautiful vocal interpretation of Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ by Voces8: https://youtu.be/IwdeqVmXlHk

THE GILKS’ MEMORIES Here’s another recollection from Vic:

Sue and I were singing in the Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Sir Malcolm Sargent Festival Chorus one Saturday. As Sue says, it is easy to get lost back-stage in the RAH especially where performers and the audience heading for the Arena can get mixed up. She thought she had plenty of time so had a cigarette as one could in those days but then couldn’t find any members of the choir. Suddenly the chorus master appeared and said very angrily (understandably) “put that fag out and get on stage. I don’t ever want to see you in my choir again”. We did further concerts with the Festival Chorus despite his remarks.


We had heard from Hugo that a pair of Peregrine Falcons was nesting on the Parish Church tower, so I took my once-a-day exercise in town late Tuesday afternoon. There, high on the north side of the tower, was one of them enjoying its high tea of pigeon cake.

VIRTUAL EVENSONG  Thanks to Ros Ivison: Superbly sung by the Rodolphus Foundation Choir under their founder Ralph Allwood, who many of us remember from the workshops he took, and featuring several other familiar faces. www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X8FYAb3JK0


‘The Rodolfus Foundation exists to promote the joy of singing great music in inspiring buildings and to educate young people from all backgrounds in choral singing and musicianship.’

EARLY MUSIC BY THE CHAIRMAN Where Andy finds calm:

I first met these two pieces on Lacock early music singing weeks that Diana and I have enjoyed participating in over the years. Though not easy to learn they are a joy to sing. The earlier of the two is Walter Lambe’s Nesciens Mater from the Eton Choirbook, an illuminated manuscript collection of English sacred music composed during the late 15th century. Transcription of some of the surviving masterpieces into modern, singable notation is relatively recent and has brought to a much wider audience the rich sounds of the 16th century liturgy in England. There are several recordings on Youtube showing quite a range of tempi and interpretations. My favourite is Antony Pitts’ Tonus Peregrinus recording which is what you hear behind the moving score on this Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAUWyK77fuU  Seeing the score helps you enjoy the elegant way in which the texture moves between two, three, four and  five voices – and do relish the sublime and wonderfully controlled ending which Pitts is alone in achieving among the Youtube recordings. (At Lacock we also sang the setting of the same text by the French composer Jean Mouton – it was some time before the course director saw the joke  –  Lambe and Mouton!)

The second choice, in similar vein, is Alonso Lobo’s Ave Maria – see  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxIMwkLsOPY.  Lobo, a Spaniard, was composing about a century later than Lambe. For me, this piece evokes calm through its seemingly ‘never-ending’ quality characterised by fragmentary rising and falling motifs repeating in the different voices throughout the work – until, suddenly and disappointingly, it does have to end!  Enjoy!


We’ve heard that some of our ladies go ‘line dancing’. Is this what they do?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfdkG-NnwMs