Although a lifelong atheist, I have always enjoyed the celebration
of Evensong, because it is so musical. This re-issue from
the Abbey/Alpha catalogue is most welcome as a fine representation
of that service.
with a very English-sounding, but nonetheless solid, performance
of Bruckner’s Locus iste we are in the Cathedral and
immediately caught up in the ceremony. Just one nagging doubt:
the boys’ voices feel somehow wrong for this composer’s motets.
Radcliffe was born the son of a housemaster at Charterhouse.
He educated there, attending King’s College, Cambridge, in 1924
as a Classical Scholar. King’s was to become his lifelong home;
he never left it for more than a few weeks at a time. He always
composed, referring to his style as Vaughan-Brahms, but only
a handful of his works were published. Radcliffe’s Versicles
and Responses are beautifully laid out for choir, in a straightforward
way, with a slight tinge of modernism.
84th Psalm is the usual chant, then comes
the first real meat of the service – Dyson’s Evening Canticles
in D. Dyson was a Yorkshireman, the son of a blacksmith,
who studied with Stanford and then, with the aid of the Mendelssohn
Scholarship, in Italy, Vienna and Berlin. During the Great War
he became celebrated for his training pamphlet on grenade warfare,
which he produced as a grenadier officer of the 99th Infantry
Brigade. In 1920 he became known as a composer when his Three
Rhapsodies for string quartet were chosen for publication
under the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust’s publication scheme.
He also became a professor at the Royal College Music. His sturdy
set of Evening Canticles in D - one of two sets he composed
- makes a strong impression here.
the rest of the responses we have Edward Bairstow’s superb Blessed
City, Heavenly Salem, a large-scale anthem with organ. Another Yorkshireman, he studied
at Oxford, was apprenticed to Frederick Bridge for six years
at Westminster Abbey and held many positions as organist, especially
at York Minster. His compositions are almost exclusively for
the Church, including 29 anthems, settings of the Morning,
Communion and Evening services – many of these are still
performed today – and an Organ Sonata in E.
The service ends with W.H. Harris’s splendid Flourish for an occasion,
written for the Coronation of 1937. A Londoner by birth, at
16 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. He was
incumbent at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, having been head-hunted
for the position, for almost three decades. During that time
he wrote much choral and organ music, larger pieces for the
Three Choirs Festival and even achieved two premières at the
London Proms. He retired in 1961.
The 1985 recording has been well remastered, the feeling of the Cathedral
is fully realised, and the balance between the spoken items
and the musical ones gives a real feel of the service. Whether
you want a reminder of the service or simply want to hear some
fine British music within the context of the liturgy this disk
is a must.
Full praise to Priory for making some of Harry Mudd’s fine recordings
available to us once again.