Classical Editor: Rob
ENGLISH COMPOSERS FOR AMATEURS: No 10 - CRAIG SELLAR LANG by Philip L Scowcroft
Lang (1891-1972) was actually born in New Zealand but he is properly to be reckoned in this series as he was educated in England at Clifton College and the RCM and then settled here and because a substantial part of his music was designed with student performers in mind; he was for sixteen years Director of Music at Christ's Hospital School.
Particularly is this so in the field of church music. His published anthems included many easy ones for two part voices: Jesu, The Very Thought of Thee, The King of Love, Let all The World in Every Corner Sing (also issued for SATB and orchestra), O Let My Wish Be Crowned and Sing Alleluia. The Easter Anthem, Christ The Lord Has Risen was for unison voices (with orchestra), his Jubilate was issued in unison and SATB versions. Other Lang anthems included the 5 part He Shall Give His Angels Charge Over Thee (1941), Set Up Thyself O God (1941: SATB), the Christmas piece Time Draws Near For The Birth of Christ, Save Us O Lord Opus 60, Sing Alleluia for trebles and organ and, for male voices (TTBB), Rejoice in The Lord Alway Op 34 (1940); Six Vesper Hymns alternated in unison, two part and three part settings. Lang was also responsible for many settings of the canticles, notably a Communion Service in F Op 78, a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in B Flat Op 16 and a Te Deum in E Flat.
Such reference books as mention Lang at all (and there are not many of them) take much less note of his secular choral works but there were in fact plenty of these. Many of them were arrangements of popular carols, spirituals and sea shanties but we may also point to Let us Drink and Be Merry Op 65 (1951 SATB), Wine and Water Op 40 (1941 SATB) and Siegfried Sassoon's well known poem Everyone Sang (celebrating the end of the First World War) which appeared in other SATB and TTBB versions in 1936 and both which settings I find evocative and sensitive. More ambitious secular choral works were the two 'ballads' with orchestra Lochinvar Op 7 (1927) and The Jackdaw of Rheims (1929), both of them favourite subjects with British composers around that time. Solo song titles included Dancing on the Hilltops, Wee Wee Husband and I am a King.
Much of Lang's instrumental output was instructional in nature or otherwise suited to young players. Here is perhaps the place to mention his Exercises in Score Reading and his Harmony at the Keyboard (Novello 1959). In 1953 he published for piano A Miniature 48, Op 64 in two books, like Bach's famous model. Other piano pieces included Butterflies Op 75, Fireflies, Grotesque Dance, a Miniature Suite Op 89 and a set of Fifteen Sketches (1955). Most notable among his violin pieces was the Passacaglia in G Minor Op 22 for four violins (unaccompanied) of 1932. Organists remember him primarily for the early cheerful Tuba Tune Op 18 (1929) though not a few of them have enjoyed and programmed his transcriptions of Handel overtures. Lang was himself an organist of distinction but despite that much of his output for the instrument was aimed at the less experienced player, things like the Forty Hymn Preludes (for manuals only), published in two sets Opp. 90 and 91, and his contribution to the Novello series of Festal Voluntaries (ie on Victory and Winchester New) and to OUP's Album of Postludes (ie the Procession) were similar essays in this direction. Other organ titles were the Introduction and Fugue on "Redhead" Op 83, the Prelude and Fugue in G Minor Op 84, the Prelude, Pastorale and Fugue, the Introduction and Pastorale Op 51 (1952), a Toccata in C Minor Op 81, the Fanfare Op 85 and several chorale preludes, notably the set of three (on Irish, Abridge and Leoni) published in 1957 as his Op 77 and which we may hear from time to time today. It seems that only organists still bother with Lang's music and even they do so relatively infrequently. This is a pity, for though his music is not the equal of that of say Percy Whitlock, Edward Bairstow and Francis Jackson, it is well made and attractive; even today students could derive enjoyment and instruction from the pieces he wrote with them in mind.
© Philip L Scowcroft
Return to Index