IF PASSIONTIDE looks diminishingly distant at the wrong end of the telescope after Ascension Day and a coronation’s worth of alleluias above the usual ration, I doubt whether people who go to Royal School of Church Music lectures are worried. They will be planning their music for Lent 2024.
The School’s annual lecture is to be given by Professor Jeremy Dibble, of Durham University, who has edited the new critical edition of Stainer’s Crucifixion*.
The lecture starts at 4 p.m. on 27 May, with a workshop first to learn the work and a chance afterwards to “perform alongside the professional choir and organist” of St Marylebone Parish Church, London, which is hosting the event (booking required).
I confess that when I saw the first press release, I did wonder what could possibly be added to the Novello score. This has been in the hands of singers of little or moderate ability and upwards, in church, chapel, or cathedral, since the piece caught on, big time, in Stainer’s lifetime.
The new publication slipped my mind until, on Good Friday, while in Regent’s Park, I acted on an impulse to go to St Marylebone for the annual rendition, held in that church since the work’s première in February 1887; and, of course, they were using the new score.
This was a fine occasion, with two excellent young soloists. I didn’t notice, as I had years ago, students at the back of church, sniggering: an echo of the musicological criticism that dogged The Crucifixion for most of the 20th century. Indeed, on the contrary, a neighbour was quite overcome with emotion by the end.
Without building any scholarly muscle, I did spot one difference in the new edition; and it was a reminder that W. J. Sparrow Simpson, who wrote and compiled the text, was a fully paid-up Church Times-contributing Anglo-Catholic. The new edition has restored one of his original verses to “All for Jesus”:
All for Jesus — at Thine altar
Plead we still that dreadful price.
Thee we offer, Thee we worship,
In the Holy Sacrifice.
It is easy to see why a Novello & Co. blue pencil might have struck, with the Evangelical market in mind, too; but that is my speculation. For the music-historical lowdown, stand referred to the Professor.
*RSCM Publications, £6.95; 978-0-85402-336-3. rscm.org.uk
Brass down under
A COLLEAGUE returns from an Australian holiday much impressed by Lachlan Skipworth’s Easter Mass, sung for the first time during the Easter Day choral eucharist in St George’s Cathedral, Perth.
She heard a Gloria, a Sanctus and Benedictus (no Benedictus at the Coronation, some readers will have noticed), and an Agnus Dei. Masses are lighter work than they used to be.
The composer, born in 1982, has also written an oratorio, The Tides of Longing, on a refugee theme, which has just had its première in Perth Concert Hall by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
For his Easter Mass — a commission that came “amidst a serendipitous wave of requests for similarly bright and uplifting music” — the composer used timpani and brass octet, and built his composition from what he calls “a set of energetic motifs intended to simply burst off the page when brought to life by the musicians”.
It has indeed been a bonanza year for that kind of composing. I write just before the Eurovision final. . .
Matzos and mugs
DESPITE our placement of a King Charles III triple pack of Fry’s Chocolate Creams in the feature on coronation souvenirs (28 April), no consignment of that product has arrived to leave telltale smears on our journalistic integrity.
Having taken the photo on a day off, I consumed the whole lot as reverently as is possible in a minute or two, in Barkingside Recreation Ground (now raised to higher dignity as a Queen Elizabeth II Park), which is more than I could have done with a box of Rakusen’s Coronation Edition Matzos.
On the Day itself, after breakfasting cautiously, I gave in to the allure of Tesco’s Coronation Shortbread on the way back to the office. The decorative tin has attracted much favourable comment.
The house in which I lived at the time of the late Queen’s Silver Jubilee had been owned by shopkeepers (no surprise to Napoleon). As they had left their coronation decorations in the loft — several plywood shields, with rows of holes in the back for inserting arrays of little flags, as well as two big Union flags, one of which was stolen from our washing line — we had a patriotic display that was probably no cooler in 1977 than it would be now. But it would have been disappointing not to use them, like the inherited ermine and coronets worn, perhaps, in front of the TV for the People’s Homage. I am looking out for photos in the Tatler.
As for coronation souvenirs per se, Dr Hilary Pearson, in Oxford, was intrigued to see our photo of women in Malings Pottery with Edward VIII mugs.
“I have one of those mugs,” she tells me. “Malings was based in Newcastle upon Tyne, and a fellow Brownie in my church troop was the daughter of the managing director of Malings. I now can’t recall the exact occasion, although I do remember it was in that family’s home, but he presented all of us there with one of these mugs.
“I suppose the Abdication left Malings and lots of other companies with unsaleable Edward VIII merchandise.”
Badges all round
THIS time, my father, who is in his nineties, saw the Coronation on TV. In 1953, he had his back to the Gold State Coach as it went past, because he was a Rover Scout leader helping to line Pall Mall in case “anyone in the crowd got too excited” (and what a long route it was, taking in Oxford Street: past Marshall & Snelgrove, though not venturing as far as Bourne & Hollingsworth).
The Scouts are not as churchy as they were in the 1950s, but I see that they volunteered at the King’s Coronation, too, and that a contingent were among the “young people” (being middle-aged is never such an accolade) who, the Archbishop’s sermon reported, were following the service in St Margaret’s, Westminster. I hardly need to add that there is a badge.