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William Mathias


Peter Clark
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MAB's response regarding Robert Munns in MM's thread about rewriting bits of music puts me in mind of William Mathias. MAB said that Robert Munns rewrote a piece that was written by a non-organist and that the composer, Montague, was delighted with the result.

 

I seem to recall reading somewhere that Mathias was not an organist although he did contribute to the modern organ literature quite extensively - Toccata Giocosa and Processional are probably found in many organists' repetoire. So has anyone else heard about Mathias not being a player as such?

 

On a sadder note I also heard that Robert Munns recently suffered a stroke. At one stage there was talk of his coming to Cardiff to give a recital but alas that seems now to to be. He recorded on the organ at St Michael's, Croydon, an organ I played once or twice in my youth and a jolly fine instrument it is too.

 

Regards

 

Peter

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67

I did once read a review (I think in The Organists Review) of, I think, a new choral work by Matthias, in which a slightly unkind dig was made to the effect that rather than buy new Matthias works as and when they were published, would it not be possible to buy a "William Matthias kit" and put together what you wanted from that! Personally, I like those works of his that I have played/heard - although the Jesus College service doesn't quite hit the mark for me.

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That sounds most unlike Organists' Review. Their reviews usually worked (and I daresay still do) on the principal that, if you couldn't say anything nice about anyone, you didn't say anything at all - but you could usually find something nice to say. I do remember reading one or two unfavourable ones, but they seemed to be quite rare.

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I am not aware of whether Mathias played the organ or not, but his music is very effective and written idiomatically for the instrument, which suggests a good working knowledge, even if he was not a skilled performer.

 

As with all these things, one has to be choosy ; I play 'Invocations' which can sound stunning on the right organ and in the right environment. I played it at Blackburn Cathedral a couple of years ago where it sounded terrific.

 

(A friend of mine at Oxford was a composer. After hearing one performance of a piece of Mathias sung by the Christ Church choir, he raised his pint and said 'Ah, Mathias ... the lack of inspiration in every bar'. Cruel, perhaps, but also quite funny).

 

I am in touch with Robert and can confirm that he did, indeed, have a stroke last a few years ago. However, he has made a good recovery and continues to play as well as ever, albeit with a lighter schedule. He recently played on the Aubertin in Aberdeen and is playing at Kings College Cambridge on 19th May.

 

M

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67
I did once read a review (I think in The Organists Review) of, I think, a new choral work by Matthias, in which a slightly unkind dig was made to the effect that rather than buy new Matthias works as and when they were published, would it not be possible to buy a "William Matthias kit" and put together what you wanted from that! Personally, I like those works of his that I have played/heard - although the Jesus College service doesn't quite hit the mark for me.

 

It may not have been OR - but whatever it was it was a good few years ago; 30 at a guess!

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I am not aware of whether Mathias played the organ or not, but his music is very effective and written idiomatically for the instrument, which suggests a good working knowledge, even if he was not a skilled performer.

 

As with all these things, one has to be choosy ; I play 'Invocations' which can sound stunning on the right organ and in the right environment. I played it at Blackburn Cathedral a couple of years ago where it sounded terrific.

 

(A friend of mine at Oxford was a composer. After hearing one performance of a piece of Mathias sung by the Christ Church choir, he raised his pint and said 'Ah, Mathias ... the lack of inspiration in every bar'. Cruel, perhaps, but also quite funny).

 

I am in touch with Robert and can confirm that he did, indeed, have a stroke last a few years ago. However, he has made a good recovery and continues to play as well as ever, albeit with a lighter schedule. He recently played on the Aubertin in Aberdeen and is playing at Kings College Cambridge on 19th May.

 

M

 

First, M, I am glad to hear that Robert Munns has recovered. My info was obviously somewhat out of date!

 

I suppose that as far as Matthias is concerned (two tees as I now believe is correct!) the "lack of inspiration" jibe was a litle cruel though he does have a fondness for:

 

consecutive fifths/fourths

addeds (normally 6th though often 9ths)

frequent changes of time...

 

all of which are splendid in the way he handles them.

 

Failures? The Bercuese doen't inspire too much and I even think that the Variations on a Welsh Hymn Tune is fairly mundane. But yes, the Invocations is splendid - dramatic, spiritual and very arresting in equal measure... when at college I was involved in a production of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and I used the opening fanfare passage for the entrance on the royals at the end.

 

Peter

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MAB's response regarding Robert Munns in MM's thread about rewriting bits of music puts me in mind of William Mathias. MAB said that Robert Munns rewrote a piece that was written by a non-organist and that the composer, Montague, was delighted with the result.

 

I seem to recall reading somewhere that Mathias was not an organist although he did contribute to the modern organ literature quite extensively - Toccata Giocosa and Processional are probably found in many organists' repetoire. So has anyone else heard about Mathias not being a player as such?

 

On a sadder note I also heard that Robert Munns recently suffered a stroke. At one stage there was talk of his coming to Cardiff to give a recital but alas that seems now to to be. He recorded on the organ at St Michael's, Croydon, an organ I played once or twice in my youth and a jolly fine instrument it is too.

 

Regards

 

Peter

 

 

======================

 

 

I don't recall too much about William Matthias, but the University of Abersywyth seems to come to mind, where I seem to think that he may have been head of music.

 

Actually, I think the "Invocations" is quite a worthy piece, and why I have never learned it when I have the music, I shall never know.

 

I think back in the late 60's and the 70's, Matthias was quite a breath of musical fresh-air, and his music enjoyed some degree of popularity around that time.

 

MM

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======================

I don't recall too much about William Matthias, but the University of Abersywyth seems to come to mind, where I seem to think that he may have been head of music.

 

MM

 

University College, Bangor, I think.

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University College, Bangor, I think.

Yes quite right. A few years ago I found myself playing one of the organs there (PJ hall I think) and in discussion with one of the music lecturers afterwards regarding it, he laid blame squarely at Matthias' door for the way the instrument had been butchered to try and suit the Baroque repertoire... :D

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Dare I suggest that these seem to be a lot of snide comments from people who have achieved significantly less. For what its worth, probably not a lot, "Lift up your heads" is probably the most popular piece in our repertoire with my junior choristers.

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Looks quite interesting on paper:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N11677

 

NPOR credits both Matthias and George Guest for this spec. If Matthias was principally to blame, he must have had more than a little idea about how to play the organ, surely?

 

Dare I suggest that these seem to be a lot of snide comments from people who have achieved significantly less. For what its worth, probably not a lot, "Lift up your heads" is probably the most popular piece in our repertoire with my junior choristers.
O sing unto the Lord was very popular at with the choristers at Windsor c.1969. I think it is worth any choir having one item by Matthias in its repertoire - and the same goes for any organist too. You might even stretch this to one anthem, one organ piece and one carol. However, to include more than this may be pushing one's luck because there's no denying that a lot of his stuff is very formulaic.

 

Of course I may just have a skewed "take" founded on the stuff I've seen/heard.

 

Incidentally, why is it now a double "T"?

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Dare I suggest that these seem to be a lot of snide comments from people who have achieved significantly less. For what its worth, probably not a lot, "Lift up your heads" is probably the most popular piece in our repertoire with my junior choristers.

 

I find it amazing that no one has yet mentioned 'A Babe Is Born', which I think is an extremely fine piece.

 

Ian Crabbe

 

 

Dare I suggest that these seem to be a lot of snide comments from people who have achieved significantly less. For what its worth, probably not a lot, "Lift up your heads" is probably the most popular piece in our repertoire with my junior choristers.

 

I find it amazing that no one has yet mentioned 'A Babe Is Born', which I think is an extremely fine piece. It is not easy to write good music which is accessible to a wide range of choirs and this carol definitely hits the spot for me.

 

Ian Crabbe

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I find it amazing that no one has yet mentioned 'A Babe Is Born', which I think is an extremely fine piece.

 

Ian Crabbe

I find it amazing that no one has yet mentioned 'A Babe Is Born', which I think is an extremely fine piece. It is not easy to write good music which is accessible to a wide range of choirs and this carol definitely hits the spot for me.

 

Ian Crabbe

 

A little bugger to play though: 100% accurately at any rate

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Funny that. The aforementioned lecturer said it was "fit for fireword". I found it hard to find three choruses to balance in a trio sonata but that was probably just my ineptitude! :D

Hmm.... I have a theory that even an inept player (which I happen to know you're not) shouldn't find it hard to find balanced choruses on any supposedly Baroque organ.

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NPOR credits both Matthias and George Guest for this spec. If Matthias was principally to blame, he must have had more than a little idea about how to play the organ, surely?

 

 

I was told - by an intermediary - that he did indeed play the organ. I have a feeling that there was a suggestion that he had a chamber organ in his house too.

 

I had very brief dealings due to a commission he received in 1986 which resulted in the composition of his "Fanfare for Theatre Organ". This was written to commemorate the opening of (and was the first piece performed on) the Christie theatre organ at the Memorial Hall, Barry in South Wales on March 1st 1987.

 

As his name comes up from time to time it's worth a mention that this was the organ on which Sidney Torch recorded 'Twelfth Street' and 'Temptation' rags, as well as 'Orient Express' and many others when it was at the Regal, Edmonton. Sadly it now languishes - practically sealed in beneath the stage - due to a change in hall management and council attitude.

 

Our friend and member the Rev. Q. was one of the opening performers!

 

S

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67
Funny that. The aforementioned lecturer said it was "fit for fireword". I found it hard to find three choruses to balance in a trio sonata but that was probably just my ineptitude! :D

 

Did anyone in the Birmingham area (Ronald?) ever come across Robert Austin, who for many years was organist at the Unitarian Church Of The Messiah, and its subsequent replacement building at Five Ways? I recall that he was a fine player, but not a professional musician. On being introduced to him when I was "nobbut a lad" as an aspiring organist, he asked me "Are you a good organist?" to which I began along the lines of "er, um..." at which point he prompted me, "well, do you play trio sonatas?" My negative reply caused him to lose interest!

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Dare I suggest that these seem to be a lot of snide comments from people who have achieved significantly less. For what its worth, probably not a lot, "Lift up your heads" is probably the most popular piece in our repertoire with my junior choristers.

 

And Processional still goes down well whenever I play it.

 

AJJ

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I had very brief dealings due to a commission he received in 1986 which resulted in the composition of his "Fanfare for Theatre Organ". This was written to commemorate the opening of (and was the first piece performed on) the Christie theatre organ at the Memorial Hall, Barry in South Wales on March 1st 1987.

 

Is this piece still in print - indeed, was it ever? OUP were/are his publishers but I don't recall seeing this in the catalogue.

 

Peter

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Is this piece still in print - indeed, was it ever? OUP were/are his publishers but I don't recall seeing this in the catalogue.

 

Peter

 

I believe it was played from a properly printed copy on the day - I'll ask Len Rawle as he's sure to still have the copy. Just doing a quick web search I think it may have been published as 'Fanfare for Organ' - perhaps OUP thought (probably quite correctly) that deleting the word 'Theatre' from the title would increase sales!

 

There's certainly nothing particularly theatrical about it - it's a short but striking piece which might in fact be much more useful to a church musician.

 

Steve

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I believe it was played from a properly printed copy on the day - I'll ask Len Rawle as he's sure to still have the copy. Just doing a quick web search I think it may have been published as 'Fanfare for Organ' - perhaps OUP thought (probably quite correctly) that deleting the word 'Theatre' from the title would increase sales!

 

There's certainly nothing particularly theatrical about it - it's a short but striking piece which might in fact be much more useful to a church musician.

 

Steve

 

 

This might help - scroll down a bit - could it be the 'Fanfare' in the Oxford Book of Wedding Music?

 

http://www.oup.co.uk/music/repprom/mathias/catalogue/

 

AJJ

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It's on a CD -"William Mathias Organ Music" played by John Scott at St Pauls on the Nimbus label, recorded 1993. The booklet refers to it being written for the Barry organ, and that it appears in the OUP anthology of Wedding Music (1991)

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Formulaic composition doesn't hit the spot every time. Mathias perhaps over-used the parallel 4ths & 5ths and driving rhythms. To my mind the best of his works are:

 

Processional

Fanfare (as aforementioned by others)

Jubilate

 

Wassail Carol (I had an LP of Kings College performing this, nla I think) Does anyone perform it now ?

Sir Christémas (Carols for Choir 2)

Lift up your heads

 

Final thought...just one T in Mathias.

 

H

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Formulaic composition doesn't hit the spot every time. Mathias perhaps over-used the parallel 4ths & 5ths and driving rhythms. To my mind the best of his works are:

 

Processional

Fanfare (as aforementioned by others)

Jubilate

 

Wassail Carol (I had an LP of Kings College performing this, nla I think) Does anyone perform it now ?

Sir Christémas (Carols for Choir 2)

Lift up your heads

 

Final thought...just one T in Mathias.

 

H

 

 

I had dealings with William Mathias at one time and on one ocasion there was a newspaper citicism of a recent performance of some of his music in which the critic stated that it was interesting to note how he always found a mathmetical formation in Mathias's music and it was interesting how to see how the complexity has developed over the years.

 

W.M. showed it to me an said "I have no idea what this man is talking about - don't critics write rubbish".

 

Anone out there an ideas about the maths theory?

 

FF

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