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5 - A ‘Wholly New Chapter’ in Service Music: Collegium regale and the Gloucester Service

from PART II - Howells the Vocal Composer

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Phillip A. Cooke
Affiliation:
Lecturer in Composition at the University of Aberdeen
David Maw
Affiliation:
Tutor and Research Fellow in Music at Oriel College, Oxford, holding Lectureships also at Christ Church, The Queen's and Trinity Colleges
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Summary

If I made the setting of the Magnificat, the mighty should be put down from their seat without a brute force that would deny this canticle's feminine association. Equally, that in the Nunc dimittis, the tenor's domination should characterise the gentle Simeon. Only the ‘Gloria’ should raise its voice.

These words were written by the composer in 1967 as the sleeve note for a recording of Herbert Howells' Church Music that was released on the Argo record label. As well as providing useful information to the listener, it also acts as a blueprint for Howells's aesthetic when composing music for the evening service, the largest and most performed part of his oeuvre. This quotation not only sets out Howells's compositional agenda but also suggests that the composer felt there were deficiencies in the extant settings that could no doubt be remedied by his unique and idiosyncratic compositional voice. This blueprint would apply to the vast majority of Howells's mature settings (1945–75) and is especially pertinent in the two most celebrated settings: Collegium regale (HH 246 – 1945) and the Gloucester Service (HH 249–1946). The word ‘revolution’ may be a touch strong for the changes made to the music for evening worship under Howells's aegis, but there are certainly some striking but subtle developments that Howells brought to these canticles.

Type
Chapter
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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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