Shaping the living and the dead.

The Annual Herbert Howells Lecture, given at Westminster Abbey on 8th October 2016 by Dr Jonathan Clinch.

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Howells grave Westminster Abbey

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Trust sponsors Choral Symphony recording — Sir George Dyson Trust: Music Blog

The Trust has just sponsored the first recording of the Choral Symphony (alongside Dyson’s St. Paul’s Voyage to Melita) with The Bach Choir and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, under David Hill. In this blog, Dr Jonathan Clinch introduces the symphony. Although written in 1910, Dyson’s Choral Symphony wasn’t performed during his lifetime and was unearthed in […]

via Trust sponsors Choral Symphony recording — Sir George Dyson Trust: Music Blog

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Recital: St Michael’s Cornhill

St Michael’s Cornhill

Monday 27 March at 1pm

King’s Herald (4:30)
Herbert Howells arr. Clinch 
Allegretto grazioso (3)
Frank Bridge
Fantasia (8:30)
Sir George Dyson
Passacaglia on the name joHn mcCABE (6)
Robert Saxton  
Pari intervallo (4)
Arvo Pärt
Sonata on the 94th Psalm (24)
Julius Reubke
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Music, Britain and the First World War

A Great Divide or a Longer Nineteenth Century? 

Music, Britain and the First World War.

Durham University, Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies One-Day Conference

21 January 2017 

Panel: ‘the communication of the dead’: music, mourning, memory and the modern

Dr Jonathan Clinch (Cambridge)

Mr Edward Smyth (Oxford)

Professor Jeremy Dibble (Durham)

Professor Douglas Davies (Durham)




 This paper considers a single work as a cultural object and site of memorialisation, Herbert Howells’ Elegy for Viola, String Quartet and String Orchestra. Written in 1917, the score is dedicated to Francis Purcell Warren, a fellow student and close friend of Howells at the Royal College of Music, who was killed in action that year. The first performance was at the Battle of Mons commemoration concert at the Royal Albert Hall in December 1917. 

 Three different theoretical perspectives are presented (from Arnold Whittall within historical musicology; from Douglas Davies within death studies; and Aleida Assmann within memory studies) in order to separate the symbolic minutiae of memory which make up the Elegy’s unique matrix of stylistic and formal elements, all of which define the process of memorialisation, replayed, re-experienced and reinterpreted in the ‘present’ of a performance. Warren, a viola player himself, haunts the work as a ghostly presence, defiantly attending his own memorial and this role is contextualised within psychological discourse on empathy to address questions of subjectivity. The ritualistic nature of performance, the denial of violence, the dynamic nature of cultural memory and the status of ‘neglected works’ which resurface having not accumulated/accrued meaning within a tradition are also considered, as is the framing influence of today’s heritage industry. 

In conclusion, the implications of these readings are then considered within the original performance context and now, during the commemoration of the First World War, in order to address the larger debate on the ‘Great Divide’ and why the dynamic between memory and history make this piece truly modern. 


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Westminster Lecture

Shaping the living and the dead.
The Annual Herbert Howells Lecture,

given at Westminster Abbey on 8th October 2016 by Dr Jonathan Clinch

is now available in the December volume of the 

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Organ Recital: Merton College Oxford

Thursday 3rd November – 1:15pm

King’s Herald
Herbert Howells arr. Clinch
Passacaglia on the name joHn mcCABE 
Robert Saxton  
Pari intervallo 
Arvo Pärt
Sonata on the 94th Psalm 
Julius Reubke

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Howells Cello Concerto Review

The Telegraph – 10th July 2016

Herbert Howells, Cheltenham Festival  – Four stars
All premieres are exciting, but to hear the long-delayed premiere of a piece by one of Britain’s best-loved composers is a particular thrill. Here was the Cello Concerto by Herbert Howells, beloved by parish choirs everywhere for his droopingly melancholic and very English church music.  

Howells began his Cello Concerto in 1933, but work was interrupted when his son died from polio in 1935. He never recovered from the blow, and working on this piece became a protracted act of mourning. Only the first two movements were completed, the second in piano score. As for the finale, a few dozen pages of sketches survived. These have been pieced together and fleshed out into a performing version by the English music scholar Jonathan Clinch.  
Last night the complete piece was performed at the Cheltenham Festival by Guy Johnston and the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra.  The venue was Gloucester Cathedral, whose rich associations with Howells and English music in general were cleverly revealed in the programme. The first piece we heard was Vaughan Williams’ much-loved Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. Its rapturous string psalmodies, eased ever-so-gently into life by the RCM SO’s strings under Martin André, seemed to breathe from the very stones and arches of the cathedral, as if they remembered the world premiere of the piece given here back in 1910.  
That premiere was witnessed by Herbert Howells, and sitting alongside him was Ivor Gurney, another quintessentially English composer. His two First World War songs By a Bierside and In Flanders were sung here with touching fervour by Nicholas Morton. Then came Britten’s Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, premiered at the first ever Cheltenham Festival in 1945.  
After the fury of that piece, Howells’s long-awaited concerto held out the promise of something more elegiac and pastoral. In fact it was nothing of the kind. True, the piece began with a lyrical descending phrase, beautifully shaped by soloist Guy Johnston, which had the feeling of a benediction. But this was soon offset by a contrasting idea involving expressionist muted trumpets, and the tension between these two generated a huge energy. Whenever the music tried to be consoling it was invaded by panic and anger, and a sense of desperate searching that led the argument to unexpected places (including a surprising touch of blues in the slow movement). We should be given another chance to hear this remarkable, troubling piece, and soon.  
The Cheltenham Festival continues until 17 July 01242 511211
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