ProgNote 13

HERBERT HOWELLS (1892-1983) No programme of “English Cathedral Music” would be complete without a substantial offering of Howells - definitely one of the great names of the 20th century - with its lusciously spiced modal harmonies and complex inner rhythms. He was born in Lydney, Gloucestershire, the youngest of six sons and two daughters of a village church organist; after serving as a chorister and then, in his teens, assistant organist of the local parish church, he became a pupil of Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral from 1905 to 1911. In 1912 he went to London on a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Stanford for four years; from 1920 he served on the staff of the College (teaching composition) and never really retired - he was still teaching there until the late 1970s. For a brief period in 1917 he had been Assistant Organist at Salisbury Cathedral, but became seriously ill and was given only six months to live (he actually survived to be 90!). He was Director of Music at the famous St Paul's Girls School in London (succeeding Gustav Holst) from 1936 to 1962, and for much of the same period (1954-1964) was also Professor of Music at London University. During World War II he deputized as organist of St John's College, Cambridge (1941-45), and the “Collegium Regale” canticle settings were written during this time for the neighbouring King’s College Choir. He was deeply affected by two significant events in his life: hearing (with his friend, the composer Ivor Gurney) the first performance of Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" in Gloucester Cathedral; and the death from polio, at the age of nine, of his son Michael (after whom he named his tune for the hymn "All my hope on God is founded").

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