HANDWASHERS’ NEWSLETTER 25th April 2021
THANK YOU all those who have responded to the membership enquiry and for your enthusiasm and kind words. I hope you’ll understand that we couldn’t reply individually. Tim
In celebration of St George’s Day here is a splendid anthem by Henry Purcell, originally written for the coronation of King James II in 1685. The words of ‘I was glad’ are taken from Psalm 122 and have been set by numerous composers over the years, the most famous being Hubert Parry’s 1902 setting written for Edward VII’s coronation.
Purcell’s setting for SSATB is described as a ‘full anthem’, indicating that it should be sung by the full choir, and thus distinguishing it from the popular ‘verse anthems’ of this period, which included extended sections for solo voices. The lively, dotted rhythms at the outset immediately convey a sense of joy and celebration and are so characteristic of Purcell’s style.
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Although he only lived to be 35 or 36, Henry Purcell can be considered one of the greatest English composers of all time, particularly known for his dramatic works and choral music. https://youtu.be/T7kiOW_yoPo
(As it happens, Purcell is said to have been composing at nine years old, but the earliest work that can be certainly identified as his is an ode for the King’s birthday, written in 1670 so he fits into this week’s theme of child prodigies. Ed.)
A CHILD PRODIGY?? Jennifer May wonders:
Back in the 1950’s I needed to earn some money, so started giving piano lessons to young beginners, very much learning on the job.
Half-a-Crown (2/6d = 12.5p)
I charged 2/6d a lesson and eventually saved up to have some organ lessons – so it was a worthwhile project. I was also determined that the lessons would be enjoyed, having suffered for many years from a dour piano teacher who just coached me through the exam system. One of my pupils – a boy aged about 8 or 9 made good progress and I did give in and enter him for the Grade 1 exam. He learned the music quickly but had a habit of starting pieces in the wrong key. I corrected him each time and made him start in the right key. On the day of the exam however, he played one of the pieces completely and correctly but in the “wrong” key. The adjudicator wrote a comment about this but did not elaborate at all. Shortly after, I left the area, and I do not know whether or not the boy continued with another teacher. I was puzzled.
Fifty years later I had a conversation with my great niece who has been diagnosed with a form of dyslexia. She was having piano lessons and explained to me that she had to learn the music off by heart first, before playing the piece on the piano. (She will no doubt be an asset to any choir as she will be able to give her full attention to the conductor!). Was there some connection between this and my previous experience with the boy pupil? And how should I have helped the boy who displayed a transposing talent that I definitely never had!
P.S. He did pass the exam with credit!
HAPPY DAYS and another child prodigy introduced by Pam Varey:
When I was about twelve years old a new vicar came to our village and took the revolutionary step of allowing girls in the church choir. I was hooked and soon worked out how to sight read the alto parts and the ‘pointing‘ of psalms. I love the canticles and psalms and regret that they no longer have a place in our services. Some of the words are quite beautiful ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help’, while some are just plain weird ‘congregations of naughty men have sought after my soul’ (Psalm 86) and ‘His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man’ (Psalm 147) which usually sent us choir children into giggles!
One particular chant is a musical curiosity:-
The third bar is the first bar in reverse and the fourth bar is the second bar in reverse, in ALL four parts. It is known as Crotch’s Conundrum. William Crotch (1775-1847) was a child prodigy, giving organ recitals at the age of three and a half!
(Here is Crotch’s Conundrum, chant 235, set as usual to Psalm 104 and sung by the choir of Lincoln Cathedral: https://youtu.be/FoNyERMOjpo Ed.)
Dr William Crotch (1775-1847)
EDITOR’S FOOTNOTE It’s worth pausing to look at the life of William Crotch:
The son of a master carpenter, he was born in Norwich in 1775 and, aged two, showed early musical talent by playing for visitors on an organ his father had built. At three-and-a-half his ambitious mother took him to London where he played the organ of the Chapel Royal for King George III.
William Crotch playing the organ, aged 3½
At 15 Crotch became organist at Christ Church, Oxford from where he graduated in music, became Heather Professor of Music aged 22 and gained a doctorate at 24.
In 1822 he was appointed as the first Principal of the Royal Academy of Music but resigned after ten years. He died in 1847 while living at his son’s house in Taunton.
As well as chants, Crotch composed a variety of other works, sacred and secular. He wrote the oratorios The Captivity of Judah and Palestine and he may have composed the Westminster Chimes which are played on Big Ben and countless clocks. Here is his joyous Organ Concerto in A, No.2 (c.1805): https://youtu.be/Yfe_b7FYIgA
Sadly, it is thought that the early parental pressure to perform caused him psychological damage later in his life and his early musical promise was never fully realised.
MORE CHILD PRODIGIES
Frederick Ouseley (1825-1889) is said to have exclaimed as a child of five, ‘Papa blows his nose in G!’ and wrote his only opera, L’Isola disabitata, at the age of eight. Here is Ouseley’s ‘O Saviour of the World’: https://youtu.be/q120BV6QabY
Thomas Linley the younger (1756-1778) whose work, ‘Let God Arise’ we hope to meet again shortly, played a piano concerto aged 7. He was the same age as Mozart who he met in Italy and was described as the ‘English Mozart’. Sadly, he died in a boating accident aged just 22. For a change, here is his Violin Concerto in F major: https://youtu.be/AOqHO1jaW2E
CELEBRATE MAY DAY WITH MOZART (The all time child prodigy)
In what he hopes will be the last online concert, Warwick Cole will be Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio (K. 563) with cello with Laurence and Elliot Kempton, to be broadcast as usual on Saturday May 1, at 11am. (It will accessible from this page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH_xL9sNnsNoDOJPVLHWGdg/videos although the thumbnail won’t actually appear until late Friday). So why not get a piece of cake and make yourself a coffee and settle down to Mozart. It is very exciting that we have the father-and-son team playing this time. Normally Elliot has been behind the microphone, but will be playing his viola – hotfoot from the Wigmore Hall, no less!
Lockdown has forced us all to adapt, and we musicians have learned all sorts of things that we wouldn’t have done ordinarily. But hopefully this will be the very last virtual concert and come October we can pick up where we left off with proper concerts with real people sitting near each other again.
WARWICK’S REPAIR SHOP We are familiar with Dr Cole’s performance virtuosity on cello and keyboard but here he is carrying out running repairs on the Minchinhampton organ: https://youtu.be/BM1OdX8wsD0
AND FINALLY . . .
To round off this edition featuring child prodigies this bears repetition: https://youtu.be/6OnZNCONPc0