Dr John E Ellis was born in 6 June 1943. He is a well-respected
composer of choral and vocal pieces as well as organ music. He is Organist
at the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Prestwich, Manchester, where
this recording was made. His aim in the music recorded here was to expand
the repertoire for voice and specifically organ accompaniment. The whole
programme indeed makes a satisfyingly varied sequence. Dr. Ellis’s idiom
is accessible and basically tonal though not without its astringencies.
He has a distinctive voice and that voice is of, and for, today.
The four Celtic Prayers (2000) vary in mood
from the jubilant opening "Let us Praise God" to the quieter
restraint of the remainder. I liked the subtle variations of the setting
of the verses of Psalm 23 (1999) which, in itself, contrasts
strikingly with the intensity of Psalm 130 (also 1999).
The three songs constituting Farewell (1997)
are different again, perhaps the most memorable musical experience on
the disc. The mood of the poetry and the musical responses thereto range
from the starkness of "I feel" (Elizabeth Jennings) to the
consolatory "Indian Prayer" (Anon.), though it is the setting
of the linking central poem (by Anne Brönte), itself entitled "Farewell",
though short – a mere minute and a half – which is the highlight here,
and hence, arguably, of the entire disc. Most serene of all are the
Three Prayer Meditations (2001), designed for use in church services
and as such probably within the compass of relatively inexperienced
Inexperienced is what Mary Hitch is not! With her poise
and firm, strong, clear line she is a splendid advocate for this music.
The composer accompanies with sympathy and plays the Meditation,
written in memory of a friend and revised for this recording – a
quiet, lyrical, six-minute miniature – with much feeling. One hopes
that it might achieve greater currency as a recital piece.
Recording is excellent and, as always with Dunelm,
presentation is faultless; the notes on the music are by the composer
himself and all the words are printed in the booklet. Warmly recommended,
despite the relatively short playing time.
Philip L. Scowcroft