THE SINGING CHURCH - an outline history of the music sung by choir and people. By C. Henry Phillips B.A., D.Mus., A.C.D.C.M. sometime Lecturer and Sub-Warden of the College of St. Nicholas, Chislehurst. First published in Mcmxlv by Faber and Faber Limited 24 Russell Square London W.C.1. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004.

Chapter 26 - CHOIR MUSIC


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Despite outside influences there is running through the whole period a steady but narrow stream of work showing something of the old feeling. Curiously enough, during the eighteenth century the long list of second-raters went on mostly uninfluenced by Handel and producing libraries of useful but uninspired works in a watered-down version of the old style. Of their work, indeed, we may use Maurice Greene's quip about King: 'Mr King is a very serviceable man.'  And a serviceable pile of anthems and services came competently from the pens of King, Kent, Kelway, Travers, Nares, Arnold, Cooke, Jackson and William and Philip Hayes and the rest, and continued, not quite so dully but as competently from Attwood, Goss, Smart, Walmisley, Ouseley, Barnby, Stainer and Sullivan. But of the eighteenth-century group there is nothing to say: their work is like the interminably similar psalm-tunes of the Old Version and while no one could conceivably work up any enthusiasm about it any cathedral organist would testify to the usefulness of much of this work in a musical establishment where two services and anthems have to be provided every day in the year regardless of the state of the choir, which even in the best regulated establishments can fluctuate in health, personnel and numbers. The work of King and Kent and the rest was, indeed, the cathedral organist's standby until modern services began to appear in such numbers; if it is seldom inspired - though even the dullest services sometimes provide sixteen bars or so of pure lyricism - it never lacks charm or thoughtful part-writing and always fits admirably into the scheme of the average daily ferial service.


ATTWOOD | You tube logo teach me o lord (attwood)

Attwood, if he had had a less easy-going personality, might have brought to our church' music the influence of his teacher Mozart, but he contented himself with writing a few charming trifles like Come, Holy Ghost, Turn thy face from my sins, or the sweetly pretty treble duet Songs of praise the angels sang, in all of which the pleasing melody has not the remotest connection with the sense of the words.


GOSS, WALMISLEY | You tube logo if we believe that jesus died (goss)

Goss and Walmisley were capable of better things and each had something within him of the old spirit. Goss in If we believe that Jesus died, which has real power, or The wilderness, which is a cleanly written verse-anthem of some vitality, shows that in a better environment he might have created great things. Walmisley, who in such work as From all that dwell below the skies sedately adorns his text, was fired to real inspiration in the fine B-flat service and the D-minor evening canticles. This last is one of those extraordinary and unaccountable products that sometimes appear in art. It has a strong beauty, tenderness where it is needed - without sentimentality - a most praiseworthy accompaniment and a harmonic scheme nothing short of remarkable for its day. Here was something rich and strangely beautiful such as had seldom been achieved; even Walmisley himself could not understand it. It might be called his Kubla Khan: the story goes that he at first intended to put it into the fire. Sung at a rather majestic pace, as Walmisley intended it to be sung [According to the late Dr Alan Gray who had it from a fellow organist of Walmisley.], it can stand beside any of the great services of the English tradition. How this work of genius came to be written by the author of most of the anthems of Walmisley is a mystery perhaps solvable by the devotees of reincarnation; a more pedestrian solution may be found in the fact that Walmisley had a knowledge and sense of the' work of the past rare in his day and was a keen literary man. If he had lived thirty years longer - he died at 42 - there is no doubt that he might have developed much in advance of his contemporaries in the composition of church and secular music.


SMART, OUSELEY, BENNETT, SULLIVAN | You tube logo o saviour of the world (ouseley)

Henry Smart, a little flamboyant sometimes, writes clean music that has often recognisable affinities with the traditional manner. Ouseley, Bennett and Sullivan, each for his own reason, never managed to produce anything worthwhile. Ouseley was a competent and knowledgeable musician but the gods gave him little or no inspiration; exceptions must be made of a charmingly felt miniature How goodly are thy tents which breathes a spirit of real Christian joy and the tender eight-part O saviour of the world . Of Bennett and Sullivan, both excellent secular musicians, we need only say that the former writes a tolerable oratorio in The Woman of Samaria from which the innocuous God is a Spirit is often extracted for use in church - it is a miserable commentary on its fine text - while Sullivan shows a singular lack of all the qualities which make his brilliant settings of Gilbert's verses so full of the sparkle of genius at play. In his hymn-tunes Sullivan is seldom anything but commonplace and can on occasion be vulgar.


BARNBY AND STAINER | You tube logo break forth into joy (j barnby)

Barnby, a fine and rigorous conductor and an 'advanced' musician of the day, who introduced Parsifal to English audiences and popularised the Bach Passions, translated his secular musical experiences and his fanatical love of the gaudier pages of Gounod into church music and occasionally produced horrible wonders which had no trace of the 'chamber' quality of church music about them. Stainer may be compared to Ouseley: it seems that he always protested that he composed only because he was asked to provide simple music for the newly formed parish church choirs. His music, especially the services for the most part, is even in good taste until he attempts the dramatic; it is incredible that this pious and serious-minded young organist (who was only 48 when he retired from St. Paul's owing to failing sight) could pen the mock blood-curdling moments of his famous cantata. His tiny Sevenfold Amen no one could be ashamed to sign and church music owes both Stainer and Ouseley a debt of gratitude. Both men of deep conviction, Stainer, himself a brilliant accompanist, improved the music and the education of the choristers at St. Paul's, while Ouseley gave cathedral music a lasting gift in the college at Tenbury, whose foundation stone was laid in 1854. Besides establishing a world-famous musical library at Tenbury, Ouseley intended that there at least the cathedral tradition, which seemed to him near extinction, should flourish and be fostered. It was a fertile idea and the college has been the cradle of many church musicians.


Charles King (1687-1748). Chorister at St. Paul's under Blow and Clarke. 1730, vicar-choral at St. Paul's. Chiefly sung are the services in Fand C.

James Kent  (1700-1776).  Chorister at the Chapel under Croft.  1751, organist at Trinity College, Cambridge. 1737, organist at Winchester. Publications: during his lifetime a volume of twelve anthems. Posthumously a service and eight anthems were edited by Corfe. Is said to have helped in the compilation of Boyce's Cathedral Music.

Thomas Kelway (died 1749). 1726, organist at Chichester. Seven services and nine anthems extant, of which a few services have been published.

John Travers (1703-1758). Chorister at St. George's, Windsor. 1737, organist at the Chapel. Service in F, Te Deum in D and some anthems, including the fine Ascribe unto the Lord. Some effective organ music.

James Nares (1715-1783). Chorister at the Chapel under Croft and Pepusch. 1734, organist at York. 1757, Master of the Children of the Chapel. His harpsichord music is more original than his church music. Publications: 1778, Six Organ Fugues, Twenty Anthems. 1788, Morning and Evening Service and six anthems.

Samuel Arnold (1740-1814). Educated at the Chapel under Nares. 1783, organist and composer to the Chapel. 1793, organist at Westminster. 1786, Collection of Handel's works. 1790, Cathedral Music. Several services and anthems.

Benjamin Cooke (1734-1793). 1757, Master of the Choristers at Westminster and the following year lay-vicar. 1762, organist at Westminster. Two services and about 20 anthems.  The service in G was specially written for the newly added pedal organ at Westminster. Much organ and secular music.

Robert Cooke (1768-1814). 1802, organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster. Evening service in C.

William Jackson (1730-1803). 1777, organist and Master of the Choristers at Exeter. Service in F.

William Hayes (1707-1777). Chorister at Gloucester. 1731, organist at Worcester. 1734, organist and Master of the Choristers at Magdalen College, Oxford. 1742, Professor of Musical Oxford. Services and anthems.

Philip Hayes (1738-1792). Second son of the preceding and reputed to be the 'largest' man in England. 1767, Gentleman of the Chapel. 1776, organist of New College, Oxford, and the following year of Magdalen College. Anthems.

Thomas Attwood (1765-1838). Chorister at the Chapel under Nares. Sent under royal patronage to Naples and Vienna at which latter place he took lessons with Mozart. 1796, organist at St Paul's and Composer to the Chapel. 1836, organist at the Chapel. He did much to spread enthusiasm for the young Mendelssohn during his visits to England and so influenced English music indirectly.  There are five services and about a dozen anthems, besides much organ and secular music.

John Goss (1800-1880). Child of the Chapel. 1838, organist of St Paul's. 1856, Composer to the Chapel. Twenty-seven anthems of which the best known are If we believe (first performed at the funeral of the Duke of Wellington), Praise the Lord, The wilderness, O Saviour of the world. Two successful 'short' type services in A and E.

Thomas Attwood Walmisley (1814-1856). 1833, organist of Trinity College, Cambridge, and St. John's. Later organist also of King's College Chapel and St Mary's. 1836, Professor of Music at Cambridge. A cultivated musician - he had literary and mathematical gifts - he was an early champion of Bach and the serious study of the history of music in the university.

Henry Smart (1813-1879). Held various posts and was a fine accompanist and extemporiser. Hymn-tunes, services and anthems.

Sir George Smart (1776-1867), a conductor of note, was in 1838 made Composer to the Chapel and produced some anthems.

Frederick Ouseley (1825-1889). 1849, ordained deacon. 1854, founded St Michael's College, Tenbury. 1855, Professor of Music at Oxford and Precentor of Hereford. Eleven services and about seventy anthems. Some secular music and excellent treatises on composition. Ouseley's first organist at Tenbury was the young Stainer, recommended by Goss.

William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875). Chorister at King's College, Cambridge. 1834-1835, organist at St Anne's Chapel, Wandsworth.  Woman of Samaria, op. 44, and anthems.

Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900). Chorister at the Chapel when he composed and published his first work, an anthem. Many hymn-tunes and anthems.

Joseph Barnby (1838-1896). Chorister at York, 1845. 1863, organist at St Andrew's, Wells Street, and 1871, at St Anne's, Soho, where he did inestimably good work by producing the Bach Passions. 1875, Precentor of Eton. Noted as a conductor and especially as an introducer of new works. His influence as a 'precision' choirmaster was wholesome. Many hymn-tunes, services and anthems, which hover, sometimes sentimentally, between dullness and flamboyancy.

John Stainer (1840-1901). Chorister at St Paul's. 1856, organist at St Michael's, Tenbury. 1859, organist at Magdalen College, Oxford, and 1872, at St. Paul's. An outstanding accompanist and improvisor. 1887, The Crucifixion. A very active musician, especially on the educational side. Some useful and excellent reform work with the musical establishment at St. Paul's. Hymn-tunes, services, anthems. [See Stainers Book "The Music of the Bible" (rare - 1882) HERE]