The Bach Choir at the Royal Festival Hall by ProQuest


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									The Bach Choir at the Royal Festival Hall
Andrew Millinger, Honorary Secretary of the Herbert Howells Society
and Dr Basil Keen, archivist of The Bach Choir give us their insights

I - Herbert Howells

     he Bach Choir’s concert on 27 November        ably never know, but                                                          writing. The recording
T    in the Royal Festival Hall gives an opport-
unity to hear the London première, and only
                                                   Howells was sensitive
                                                   to criticism and a not-
                                                                                                                                 company Naxos was
                                                                                                                                 already planning to
the second performance, of a recently re-          oriously poor promoter                                                         record The Bach Choir
discovered work by Herbert Howells. The            of his own works. Per-                                                         singing Hymnus Par-
ballad of Sir Patrick Spens was set by Howells     haps the amateur choir                                                          adisi together with
in 1917 at the age of 25, and received its first   and orchestra that gave                                                         several other works by
performance in Armstrong College, Newcastle-       the first performance in                                                        Howells, and became
upon-Tyne in 1930. It then lay forgotten in        1930 found the complex                                                           very interested in
the archives of the Royal College of Music.        writing very difficult (it                                                       producing         the
   Although better known these days for his        still is, even to today’s                                                        première recording
church music, in the early part of last century    singers), and perhaps the                                                         of Sir Patrick Spens.
the young Howells produced a considerable          first performance was not                             The CD, which was released last year, was met
output of choral, orchestral, instrumental and     received well. Whatever the reasons, it lay           with critical acclaim. Along with Sir Patrick
chamber music, songs and organ music, as           undiscovered for the next 75 years.                   Spens, the programme for 27 November also
well as major choral masterpieces such as the           Sir Patrick Spens might well have had only       includes a rare performance of the Collegium
Hymnus Paradisi of 1950. Sir Patrick Spens was     one performance had it not been for its dis-          Regale Te Deum in the orchestral version.
his earliest attempt at a large-scale choral/      covery by Paul Spicer, one of Howells’ bio-              Herbert Howells, who wrote a Stabat Mater
orchestral work, and in it he pays homage to       graphers, in the RCM archives. He drew it to          and several shorter pieces for The Bach Choir,
Vaughan Williams – there are echoes of his         the attention of David Hill, Musical Director         was for many years Vice-President of the
Sea Symphony in the writing.                       of The Bach Choir, who decided that the piece         Choir.                    ANDREW MILLINGER
   Why did it not receive further perform-         had been unjustifiably neglected and that it
ances in the composer’s lifetime? We shall prob-   contained some very fine orchestral and choral
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