Before me, Careless lying

View from Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Music Festival have announced their forthcoming programme, including a very rare piece by Herbert Howells on Day 3 (9th April) of the Festival, ‘Before me, Careless lying’.

One can only wonder at what Christmas was like in the Howells’ household as several of his works, including the madrigal ‘Before me, Careless lying’ (1918) and the coronation anthem ‘Behold O God our defender’ (1952), were completed on Christmas Day.
The text by Austin Dobson (1840-1921) was initially set to music by C H Lloyd and published by Novello in 1901. Howells would have found Dobson’s style, his use of forgotten French forms from earlier ages and revelment in a golden age of poetry, was in perfect parallel to his own love of music from the golden age of Byrd and Tallis. Howells first set the text in 1916 as part of a collection of four solo songs (which included the popular King David) giving it the title ‘A Madrigal’. This piece is available online from the University of Rochester.
The five part version dates from a period when Howells was working for Dr R R Terry at Westminster Cathedral, editing Tudor music for publication. The pastiche madrigal follows the form of the solo song. There are four verses, three of which are light and rhythmically energetic contrasting with a slower and more expansive setting of the penultimate verse (Nay child, I cry). Howells dedicates the work ‘To my friend Dr R R Terry’. It was recorded by The Finzi Singers under Paul Spicer in 2006.
©2011 Jonathan Clinch
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