More on the Music at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Funeral

If interested in the full 22 April 2021 article, “Did They Mention the Music?”, on the role of music in Prince Philip’s funeral, follow this link.

But the meat of the piece, for those interested in the Anglican patrimony and music, is the following paragraph:

“There were other threads of connection skilfully woven into the fabric of the service – royal, historical, and local. William Croft (1678–1727) shared the same teacher, John Blow, as his older contemporary Henry Purcell (to whom Lovelady’s Psalm 104 setting pays homage), and like him he was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and Organist of Westminster Abbey. Most of Croft’s music is forgotten, but his hymn tune to O God, our help in ages past is still a firm favourite and his Burial Sentences which opened the service have been sung at the funeral of every British sovereign since George II. The Russian Kontakion – brought into the Anglican repertoire in its arrangement by St George’s organist Sir Walter Parratt over a hundred years ago – reminded us of the Duke’s background in the Orthodox Church. Another St George’s organist, Sir William Harris – piano teacher to the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret – composed one of the organ preludes before the service. His friend and Windsor colleague Canon Edmund Fellowes was the first to edit William Smith’s Responses from the early seventeenth century which we heard skilfully arranged for four voices (there were five in the original) by former St George’s Assistant Organist Roger Judd.”

Prince Philip & Benjamin Britten

The anthem following the first reading at the funeral of Prince Philip (17 April 2021) was Benjamin Britten’s 1961 setting of the Psalm 100 the “Jubilate Deo.”

The epistolary evidence shows that Britten was keen to write liturgical music for St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, when Prince Philip and Britten corresponded about the possibility in the early 1960s.  For reasons not altogether clear, Britten’s Jubilate Deo of 1961 was the only realization of the project.  The then organist and composer of St. George’s, Sir William Harris, found the Jubilate to be too “jolly” for the liturgy.  (Letter from Canon Bentley to Graham Elliott, quoted in Elliott, Britten: The Spiritual Dimension, 86.)  It was around this time that Britten’s contributions to writing music specifically for the liturgy (Anglican or Catholic) waned.  If Britten was aware of Harris’s opinion, the disapproval of so eminent a church musician might have been one factor in Britten’s shift of focus.  Other factors, though, include Britten’s increasing success in other musical genres and the fact that, though he continued to write works with Christian themes, such as his parables for church performance, his attachment to liturgy/common worship was not strong in his adult life.

Nonetheless, it is good to have this setting of the “Jubilate Deo” in the repertoire, and a bit of jollity, founded on Christian hope, was good to hear at Prince Philip’s funeral.

Richard Shephard – +20 February 2021 – May he rest in peace.

Reporting the sad news of the death of Richard Shephard, MBE, FRSCM (20 March 1949 – 20 February 2021).  Considered “one of the most significant composers of church music of his time,” he was also an educator and had several roles at Yorkminster and in Yorkshire.

Follow this link for a performance of his Responses written for Salisbury Cathedral.

Working for the Organist

The first “High Mass [the young Stephenson] attended at St. Bart’s [an Anglo-Catholic parish in Brighton] was Easter Day … We did not have to wait long before things started to happen, for … a rotund man wearing a cassock and cotta … walked solemnly down the aisle bowing graciously on either side to those with whom he was acquainted.  I discovered that this was Mr. Madle the organist who was responsible for the musical tradition of St. Bart’s.  When Cyril Tomkinson became the vicar he was apt to say to people: ‘I help a little at Mr. Madle’s church.’”  (Colin Stephenson, Merrily on High [New York: Morehouse-Barlow Co., 1973], 26).

[The Nave of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton]