Gerald Finzi

Gerald Finzi

At our Ascension Day Service on Thursday evening, in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, we sang all the good old favourites, such as ‘Hail the Day…’ words by Charles Wesley, ‘The Head that once…..’ with Jeremiah Clarke’s tune St Magnus, and Saward’s ‘Christ Triumphant….’ to John Barnard’s  great tune  ‘Guiting Power’.  ALL GOOD STUFF !!

The music of the Liturgy was Haydn’s Kleine Orgelmesse…..very much a ‘no-nonsense’ setting which does exactly what it says on the tin.

For the anthem, the Cathedral Choir sang  ‘God is Gone Up’…..a title which is highly-suitable for such  an occasion. It was written by Gerald Finzi, the son of a father of Italian/ Jewish descent and mother of German/Jewish parentage.

He was born in London in 1901, into a well-off household and was able to be educated privately. He lost his father at 7 and during the First World War the family moved to Harrogate. In his early years he also lost three of his brothers…..which no doubt had an influence on his writing. He took the chance to study with Edward Bairstow who was close-by, at York Minster.

At the age of 21 he moved to Gloucestershire where he could compose in the lovely rural countryside. However, five years later he returned to London where he became acquainted with Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst and Sir Arthur Bliss. He married artist Joy Black in 1933 and moved to Wiltshire.

At the outbreak of war he moved to a farm in Hampshire, where he opened the house to German and Czech refugees, and he formed the amateur group the Newbury String Players. This allowed him to work on eighteenth century pieces, and several premieres by his contempories were given.

He was diagnosed in 1951 as having Hodgkin’s Disease but he continued with his work. In 1954 there was an all-Finzi concert in the Royal Festival Hall, and Sir John Barbirolli commissioned his Cello Concerto for the Cheltenham Festival of 1955. He died in 1956.

Whilst he is not a common name in the average listener’s vocabulary, and I don’t find ‘God is Gone up’ an easy piece to listen-to, I have to admit that perhaps his music does require a little more investigation.

R.I.P. Gordon

 Gravestone

We record the death  of Gordon Moore, (2.1.1927-11.5.2009) someone known to most of our Choir. He was a great lover of church choral music, and in spite of the increasing disability caused by his deafness and Meniere’s, he continued to sing in the St Cyprian’s choir till just a few years ago. Even when the church choir was at a low ebb, he was always there in the back row.

His knowledge of music notation was not good so he learned his part by rote. His records about when and where hymns, tunes, anthems, chants etc had been used previously was often referred-to, to ensure variety in worship.

He was   also very good at Scottish Country dancing and the writer was once persuaded to go to an open night. Despite instructions from Gordon, feet, brain, and music failed miserably to co-ordinate, to the consternation of Gordon, who expected that everyone should be as good at it as he was.

Let’s hope that he can find a choir and/or a country dancing group, in the hereafter.

Crimond

crimond-kirk

Today, at the Cathedral, we used a tune so well-known to church-goers and non-church-goers alike, that it is one of the favourites used at Burial Services (you just have to lookat the most-thumbed page in Burial Service Sheets!). The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 23, and the name of the tune is Crimond.

Jessie Seymour Irvine was born in July 1836, the daughter of a Scottish clergyman who served in Peterhead, and then in the village of Crimond, in Aberdeenshire. Whilst studying the organ, she wrote a tune, which was harmonised by David Grant in 1872, when it appeared in the Northern Psalter. It was thought that the original tune was by Grant but in the 1929 Scottish Psalter, she was acknowledged as the composer.

It seems to be a perfect example of the Scottish Psalter compositions, and whilst to some it may smack of sentimentality but it does have that simplicity of tune which makes it easy to learn and remember, and difficult to forget….it truly passes the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’.

She died in 1887 and is buried in St Machar’s Cathedral, in Aberdeen…..and while she is mainly remembered for this tune alone….surely that is sufficient epitaph alone!