Organ Recital at Merton College Oxford


Thursday 9th May – 1:15pm

Dr Jonathan Clinch

Music by Howells, Saxton, Byrchmore and Berkeley


Psalm Prelude, set 2, no.1. Psalm 130, verse 1: Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

Chorale Prelude ‘Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist’ (2019), Ruth Byrchmore (born 1966)

Psalm Prelude, set 2, no.2. Psalm 139, verse 12: Yea the darkness is no darkness with thee. Herbert Howells

Chorale Prelude In memoriam Oliver Knussen (Oxford Premiere), Robert Saxton (born 1953)

Psalm Prelude, set 2, no.3. Psalm 33, verse 3: Sing unto Him a new song: play skilfully with a loud noise. Herbert Howells

Three Pieces for Organ (op.72/1, 1968), Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)

i. Aubade, ii. Aria, iii. Toccata


Merton Website


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Westminster Recital: World Premiere

Robert Saxton & Oliver Knussen











7th April 2019 – 4:45pm, free entry.

Passacaglia on the name John McCabe (2015), Robert Saxton (born 1953)

Chorale Prelude ‘Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist’ (2019), Ruth Byrchmore (born 1966)

Chorale Prelude In memoriam Oliver Knussen (World Premiere), Robert Saxton

Three Pieces for Organ (op.72/1, 1968), Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
i. Aubade, ii. Aria, iii. Toccata

Further details.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Herbert Howells: Chamber Music – String Quartet ‘In Gloucestershire’, Lady Audrey’s Suite, Piano Quartet



This superb CD of some of Howells’ finest chamber music will be released on 12th April. Here are my programme notes for the disc.

Herbert Howells (1892-1983) defined the sound of English Cathedral music in the twentieth century with a style which is immediately recognisable for its long melodic lines, rhapsodic nature, rich harmony and ecstatic climaxes. His earliest musical education came from his sister within the family home at Lydney, Gloucestershire. He also heard the organ played by his father in the Baptist chapel next door and then progressed to Lydney Parish Church, where he had his first experience of choral music. Herbert’s headmaster encouraged him and a local squire funded more serious tuition with Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral, becoming an apprentice at the same time as Ivor Gurney and Ivor Novello. Crucially, the link with Gloucester also drew Howells into the world of the Three Choirs Festivals where he experienced not only the riches of the oratorio tradition but also some of the latest contemporary music. Howells’ writing from this time shows him grappling with these influences, as well as a heady mixture of the German Romantics. When he won an open scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in 1912, he changed overnight. The ‘queer looking scrubby little creature’ that Hubert Parry describes in his diary entry for the scholarship examination transformed himself into a charming, dapper gentleman. Likewise with the move to London, Howells jettisoned so much of his early musical style in favour of a far more refined writing where every note mattered. This was almost certainly the influence of Charles Wood and Charles Stanford. 

The move to such a cosmopolitan city as London allowed Howells to soak up all of the latest music. Hubert Parry mentored him and he was frequently invited to salon recitals in the homes of the rich and famous in Kensington and beyond. The Royal College of Music itself hosted many of the earliest London performances of new music and it was the French school of Debussy and Ravel which had the greatest impact on Howells. Likewise, the wartime performances of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were unmissable for the young composer and he made particularly detailed study of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. A terminal diagnosis in 1916 of Graves’ disease, a condition which caused Howells’ heart to race and his eyes to visibly protrude from his face, meant that he was spared active service in the First World War and thanks to Parry’s connections with the finest doctors in London, Howells became the first person in Britain to receive experimental radium treatment, supplemented with regular prescriptions of arsenic. Ultimately, the treatment was successful but it did require him to spend long periods convalescing. In many ways this was a golden period for Howells, filling his time with composition and producing some of his most celebrated works including the Elegy for Viola, String Quartet and String Orchestra (1917), the three Rhapsodies for organ (1915/18), several fine songs such as King David (1919), the carol-anthem A Spotless Rose (1919), and the three chamber works on this disc.

String Quartet No.3 ‘In Gloucestershire’

The revision of unpublished scores was a constant process for Howells: it was said that he could not copy a single bar of his own music out without changing some element. The String Quartet No. 3 (‘In Gloucestershire’) was begun in the summer of 1916 but the first manuscript was left on a train and Howells subsequently revised it several times. Like all the works on this recording, the quartet’s history was bound up with his friendships with Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott. The first performance took place at a private concert in March 1920 at Scott’s London home. Howells and Gurney would go walking in the countryside around Gloucester, frequently disappearing for days at a time. The third quartet captures what Howells described as the ‘real Gloucestershire’; ‘…I had the sort of heart-ache for Gloucestershire all the time, and chiefly when I think of Gloucestershire, of the Cotswolds’. The opening seems to capture that sense of nostalgia with a folksong-like theme which would not have been out of place in Stanford’s quartets, yet at the same time Howells’ fluid treatment of it, his rich modal harmony and the finesse of his textures (especially in the short pizzicato scherzo), makes this one of the most overt English homages to the chamber music of Ravel. The opening music returns at the end of the quartet, dispelling the nervous dance-like energy of the final movement, and closing in complete tranquility.  

Lady Audrey’s Suite for String Quartet

Again, the folk-element of Howells’ string writing is immediately audible in Lady Audrey’s Suiteof 1915. Finished on Christmas Day, it was a present for Marion Scott’s young niece, Audrey, who was raised in the Scott’s home following the death of her mother in childbirth. Howells was fond of writing character pieces for young listeners and the titles are clearly inspired by Debussy’s Children’s Cornersuite. Howells’ own programme note elaborates on the stories:

‘1. The Golliwogs – poor stiff things! – hated dancing; and they wereso sleepy. But some horrid, spiteful “Mugician” goaded them with sharp words and a prickly fork. So they danced as best they could; bowed; and ran away.

2. In the fields and woods the little girl had little else to think of than the flowers, and the solitary old shepherd who, among his flocks close by, piped the only scraps of tune he cared for. She often pitied his loneliness.

3. On Sundays this same little girl would go into the big,quiet Church, and hear the solemnest things sung by the Parson in a low up-and-down voice. And of these solemn words, and of coloured windows, she would think at Prayer-time each evening in the week. But thoughts would come, too, of the doings of each day – of a quiet, lonely Monday; a five-finger exercise Tuesday; a tale of Saints-and-Organs Wednesday; a dancing tea-party Thursday; a fairy-tale Friday; and a Sabbath-eve Saturday.

4. Once the old shepherd told her a tale – of himself years ago, and of his friends. He was not always slow-going and lonely.’ 

Piano Quartet in A minor

Written in 1916, Howells’ Piano Quartet received significant attention when it won a Carnegie Trust award which secured its publication. Such was Stanford’s respect for his ‘son-in-music’ that he had submitted the score on Howells’ behalf and, in turn, Howells submitted Stanford’s own winning entry, his opera The Travelling Companion. The Piano Quartet bears an unusual dedication: ‘To the Hill at Chosen and Ivor Gurney who knows it’. Howells and Gurney frequently climbed the vantage point outside Gloucester, with its magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. ‘Chosen’ (or Churchdown) was also the home of Howells’ fiancé, Dorothy Dawe. ‘When the first movement opens it is dawn, and the hill wind, pure externally free, and uplifting, is blowing…The second movement is the Hill upon a day of midsummer, and the thoughts are those which come as a man lies on the grass on his back gazing upward into the vast vault of sky…The Finale is the Hill in the month of March, with splendid winds of Spring rioting over it’. Howells revised the score in 1936, altering the second subject of the first movement; the result was a much darker work. Given the work’s associations with Ivor Gurney (who by this time was severely ill and living in an asylum), it is hard not to hear these reworkings as a personal reference to that lost friendship.


Copyright 2019, Jonathan Clinch –

 The recording was supported by the Herbert Howells Trust, the Herbert Howells Society, and The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Robert Saxton commission in memory of Oliver Knussen


Jonathan has commissioned a new organ piece from Robert Saxton (Oxford University). The piece will be in memory of the composer Oliver Knussen (1952-2018), Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music. Jonathan will give the first performance at Westminster Cathedral on Sunday 7th April 2019.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hubert Parry and the Past, Present and Future of Music History Teaching

Hubert Parry

Jonathan will be speaking about Hubert Parry’s legacy at the Royal College of Music on 28th October.

Full programme here.

This study day, co-organised by the Royal College of Music and the University of Southampton, will examine Parry’s work at the RCM and his legacy throughout the 20th century. Parry was the RCM’s first Professor of Music History and his approach to the subject – driven by active student participation and shaped by contemporary doctrines of evolution – was visionary in its time. The day will conclude with a keynote address on the past and present of music history pedagogy in higher education by Alexander Rehding, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard University.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Westminster Abbey Talk



To mark the centenary of the death of Hubert Parry, Jonathan will be discussing the relationship between Herbert Howells and Hubert Parry with Professor Jeremy Dibble at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6th October. Details from the Herbert Howells Society.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Redcliffe Recital

St Mary Redcliffe

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Thursday 27th September at 1:15pm

Jonathan Clinch (Royal Academy of Music)

Herbert Howells arr. Clinch
King’s Herald

Hubert Parry
Elegie in C

Frank Bridge
Lento (in memory of Hubert Parry)

Julius Reubke
Sonata on the 94th Psalm


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hubert Parry’s final work published by Royal College of Music

Hubert Parry

2018 marks the centenaries of the end of the First World War and also the death of Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918), celebrated composer and former Director of the Royal College of Music.

Ahead of events to mark the occasions later in the year, Dr Jonathan Clinch has prepared the first edition of Parry’s unpublished Elegie in C for organ, which the Royal College of Music are making freely available for download through the IMSLP site.

This beautiful miniature was written in March 1918 and, excluding the orchestration of his earlier song ‘England’, was the final music he wrote. The Great War had a tremendous effect on Parry. His vision for the Royal College was that it would produce musicians who would play a full role in society, so in his eyes it was the duty of the men to fight. At the same time, the slaughter of so many of his young musicians caused him great distress. The Royal College of Music would like to thank Catherine Russell, great granddaughter of Sir Hubert Parry, for permission to publish this score for the first time.

The Elegie can be heard at the Royal Festival Hall on April 24th, played by William Whitehead.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Howells: An English Mass & Te Deum (Collegium Regale)

Herbert Howells’ An English Mass has recently been published in a beautiful new edition by Novello and will be recorded by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge next year.

Ahead of this, they are performing it on 17 March 2018:



Howells An English Mass & Te Deum ‘Collegium Regale’
Brahms Double Concerto

Magnus Johnston violin
Guy Johnston cello
Members of the Choir of King’s College, past and present
Cambridge University Orchestra
Stephen Cleobury conductor

Tickets HERE



Some thoughts…

‘Collegium Regale’ Te Deum (1944/1977)

With the war-time settings for King’s College, Herbert Howells not only took his career in a new direction (having previously been celebrated principally for his orchestral and chamber music) but redefined the whole aesthetic of Anglican church music in the twentieth century. His highly personal style mixes unison statements (which take on the rhythmic fluidity of chant) with a rich modal harmonic language which has its origins not only in his love of Tudor choral music, but in the more recent modality of the French impressionist school. The sheer ecstasy of the resultant music matches the grandeur of Parry and the energy of Walton, with an intimacy that is quintessentially Howellsian. Eric Milner-White, the Dean of King’s who had commissioned Howells to write the Te Deum (as a bet), wrote that it represented ‘so much more than music-making; it is experiencing deep things in the only medium that can do it’. The Te Deum was written in 1944 (along with the Jubilate) and owes its considerable popularity to a series of recordings on Argo – Boris Ord (1958), David Willcocks (1967) and Stephen Cleobury (1992) – which introduced Howells’ music to a worldwide audience. Howells orchestrated the Te Deum in 1977 for the Leith Hill Musical Festival, adding a short orchestral introduction which demonstrates how far his mature style had come since 1944.

An English Mass

Kyrie, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Gloria

Despite considerable interest in Herbert Howells’ early works, it took until he was nearly sixty, with the first performance of Hymnus Paradisi (at the 1950 Gloucester Three Choirs Festival), for him to score a major success with the critical press. Following this, the Festival was very keen to commission another large scale work for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Howells’ response was the Missa Sabrinensis (Mass of the Severn), highly similar in style, equally complex but considerably longer than Hymnus. The size of the work proved too much for the performers and the first performance in Worcester was followed by an even bigger disaster during the London premiere, during which they had to stop at one point.

Howells, ever sensitive to the critics, followed the Missa Sabrinensis with another mass setting, again for chorus and orchestra, but this time with a number of major differences. An English Mass is half the length (at around 35 minutes) and scored for chorus, strings and organ, with optional  parts for flute, oboe, timpani and harp for concert performance and a short ‘Sursum Corda’ for liturgical use. The ‘English’ descriptor refers to the language of the text from the Book of Common Prayer (although, as usual, the Kyrie is in Greek). The Mass was completed in early 1956 and dedicated to Harold Darke and his St Michael Singers who gave the first performance in June 1956 during a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Darke’s appointment at St Michael’s Church, Cornhill. Alongside the Mass were Hierusalem by Sir George Dyson and A Vision of Aeroplanes by Ralph Vaughan Williams. After the concert, Howells wrote praising the choir: “They were grand; quick to learn the bulk of my strange notes, and inspired in finding better ones when mine didn’t fit”.

The Mass contains a huge variety of styles and moods, from the rhapsodical, delicate unfolding of the Kyrie to the blazing fortissimos and highly arresting rhythmic fanfares that occur in the Gloria, Credo (particularly when the chorus burst in following the opening intonation) and Sanctus (the enormous build up to ‘Lord most high’). Regardless of Howells’ own lack of faith, the Mass is characterised by the assertiveness of (in his words) the “personal and creative reaction to a text of immense, immemorial significance”. One can hardly fail to sense a personal optimism with moments such as the solo line ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead’ in the Credo; even after the passing of over twenty years, Howells’ works were still deeply influenced by the death of his son, Michael.


©2018 Jonathan Clinch


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Recital: St John’s College, Cambridge

Jonathan will be giving a recital in the series at St John’s on Sunday 2nd July at 6pm.


Robert Saxton (b.1953): Passacaglia ‘On The Name John McCabe’ (2015)

Ian Venables (b.1955): Rhapsody ‘In Memoriam Herbert Howells’ (2009)

Herbert Howells (1892-1983): Psalm Prelude set 2 no.3, ‘Sing unto Him a new song: play skilfully with a loud noise’



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment