Handwashers’ Newsletter 26th July 2020


For this week’s column we return to Gloucestershire and the world of choral music. Many of you will remember that in 2016 CCS commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of Hubert Parry by performing a concert of works by both Parry and his esteemed contemporary and colleague, Charles Villiers Stanford. The programme included the first two of Parry’s Songs of Farewell. This week I am sharing the entire set of six songs in a wonderful performance by Tenebrae, directed by Nigel Short.

These motets were written towards the end of Parry’s life, between 1913 and 1915. They reflect the composer’s love of English Renaissance madrigals and part-songs but also bear the influence of German composers, particularly Brahms.

The first motet My soul, there is a country has always been the most famous of the six. Many of you will remember grappling each week with all those sudden changes of tempo and harmonic twists – Tenebrae make it sound very easy! The video link helpfully includes the score of each song and you will notice how the number of voice parts increases as the collection unfolds. The final motet, Lord, let me no mine end, is scored for double choir; a real tour-de-force of a capella technique. 

Enjoy!          https://youtu.be/C47L0iorBXE

ORGANS IN CANADA Margaret McIvor remembers:

Reading Carleton’s Column reminded me of several organs we visited on a trip to Canada and Nova Scotia in 2018.   The company Casavant Freres built many organs in churches and cathedrals throughout Canada.   We loved the Casavant, 7,000 pipe, 83 stop organ in Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, and the building itself is gorgeous.   On a drive in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia we saw St Peter’s Church in Cheticamp.   This has a Casavant organ with 534 pipes varying in length from half an inch to 8 feet.   Another memorable Casavant organ was in the Basilica in Halifax, Nova Scotia.   The photos are of the cathedral in Montreal and its organ.   It is heart-rending that the organ in Nantes Cathedral was destroyed.   

Montreal Cathedral Organ 

ALISON REMINISCES This week another Alison, of the Norris variety, shares memories:

Singing a newly commissioned work is always a challenge which I found out in May 1979 when I was a member of the Chigwellian Choral Society. This was a choir formed originally by Chigwell School, a public school in Essex, from staff, parents and Old Chigwellians but expanded to welcome new members by audition. I had no connection to the school but passed the audition.

I had been singing with them for a few years when the school reached its 350th anniversary and as part of the celebrations decided to put on a concert and commission a piece of music for the occasion. The composer chosen was Derek Bourgeois (1941- 2017) who was then a lecturer in music at Bristol University having studied at the Royal College of Music under Herbert Howells and Sir Adrian Boult. By 1979 he had already composed about twenty works both orchestral and choral and by the time of his death had 116 symphonies to his name. He went on to become Director of the National Youth Orchestra (1984-1993) and then Director of Music at St Paul’s Girls School, a position previously held by Gustav Holst and Herbert Howells.

Derek Bourgeois

For the concert he chose to set a poem by T.S Eliot called “ Triumphal March” which had been written in 1931.It was scored for tenor solo, S.A.T.B and orchestra. The orchestra at the concert was the Essex Youth Orchestra who also accompanied the choir in Berlioz’ Te Deum which was performed in the first half of the concert.

The text of the poem included the line “and he said right out loud CRUMPETS” the last word of which we had to shout, in the right place of course. This took a lot of practice as we all felt rather self-conscious and it was not at all what a choral society member would normally expect to do!


The concert took place in St Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden in May 1979 and the other pressure was the fact that it was recorded by Radio 3. It was broadcast the following year as part of a series celebrating Youth Orchestras of the World in April 1980. It was the first broadcast performance of Bourgeois’ piece. I did have a tape recording made by my father but it has gone missing or else it deteriorated and I threw it out and neither do I have a copy of the programme as I have not been so assiduous as Penny in keeping them.  I have  also failed to find anything on Youtube or a copy of the vocal score so unless it still exists somewhere in Radio 3’s archives my vocal contribution has been lost along with everyone else’s and I can’t remind myself of the music without the score.

SYMPHONIC QUIZ (Mark Wallington reminds me that we forgot to give the answers to Liz’s quiz set several weeks ago. Sorry! Ed.)

Observe (Vaughan Williams)                                                         see                              Sea Symphony

Payment for travel, hole in the earth to get water (Haydn)       fare well                     Farewell

Israelite type of Greek bread (Mozart)                                          Jew pitta                    Jupiter

Make less loose (Mahler)                                                               tighten                        Titan

A thousandth, Mr Wogan (Haydn)                                                milli Terry                   Military

Wildebeest in a spin (Dvorak)                                                        gnu whirl                   New World

Mr Gore, long for (R Strauss)                                                        Al pine                       Alpine

Concerning an uprising (Mahler)                                                  re insurrection          Resurrection

Old newsreel company, hard wood (Tchaikovsky)                     Pathé teak                 Pathétique

Fellow Mr Astaire (Tchaikovsky)                                                   man Fred                   Manfred

And if that isn’t enough to groan about try these:

Accumulations of textile fibres (Mozart)

Jump in the air (Schumann)

Illuminated everything racin’ (Tchaikovsky)

Kidney for example (Saint Saens)

Small round of bread from NE city (Haydn)

Central part, pointed hole-making tool (Beethoven)

Present for acceptance, you (archaic) fine granular material (Mahler)

Fireplace, observe high-ranking military man (Schubert)

The thing, from outer space (Mendelssohn)

Dancing judge Mr Goodman, actress Ms Bergman (Shostakovich)

‘Yes, we ____ __ bananas’ (Mozart)

Keen supporter, Russian news agency, hardwood (Berlioz)

Cow-like car maker (Haydn)

J S BACH was BBC 3 Composer of the Week last week. You can catch up as Donald Macleod journeys through Bach’s early career as an organist, which took him from Eisenach to Weimar, here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000l1m4


Though we may have seen it before, Graham thinks we should be reminded of what being conducted was like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OnZNCONPc0