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Tabernacle Hymn Singing At The Turner Sims


DouglasCorr
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I wonder if any other Message Boarders share my disappointment at yesterday afternoon’s event at the Turner Sims Concert Hall?

 

Billed as 'Vaughan Williams And The English Hymnal' and described as

 

Ralph Vaughan Williams was the Music Editor of the English Hymnal, a book described in its preface as ‘A collection of the best hymns in the English language’. As a tribute to the composer fifty years after his death join David Owen Norris, choir Cantores Michaelis and a raft of special guests to find out more about the immense musical impact which the book has had. You can also discover how its contents help paint a picture of Vaughan Williams’ life, his friends and interests. The concert includes performances of many of the book’s hymn tunes on an array of instruments including the Turner Sims organ as well as works associated with them including the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis for string orchestra and the Three Preludes

 

So I expected something of a lecture with musical illustrations. There was much for a learned institution to talk about – what lead to the production of the hymnal- what the musical objectives were - what lead various composers to make their contributions – why the tempi so carefully assigned by VW are now largely ignored…. But instead, apart from a few short anecdotes, the audience was largely invited to sing through a jumbled selection of hymns from the EH. This luckily was a moving experience – the audience seemed to be packed with choral society singers – and the organ sounded magnificent.

 

There were all the right ingredients- the excellent Cantores Micaelis, the string orchestra – but there was no plan or serious information content. It became a Tabernacle style hymn singing event and a missed opportunity.

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I was playing the organ for this, and no, I wasn't disappointed at all! There were just over 180 people there who seemed to be enjoying themselves famously.

 

The thing with David Owen Norris is he DOES actually tell you quite a lot, but he does it in such a way that you don't realise. Had the singing been less magnificent, then there probably would have been more talking. Certainly the atmosphere we were getting on stage was 'come on, let's have the next song'.

 

I hope that any disappointment you felt was assuaged by DON's magnificent performance of the Bach chorale arrangement - I've never known an atmostphere so electric - from start to finish of quite a slow work, not a single moment where the energy sagged.

 

(I hope there weren't too many message boarders there to witness me following this magnificent performance with a stunning but inadvertent false relation in the playover which followed! Perhaps this is the real cause of your disappointment.)

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Guest Patrick Coleman
There were all the right ingredients- the excellent Cantores Micaelis, the string orchestra – but there was no plan or serious information content. It became a Tabernacle style hymn singing event and a missed opportunity.

 

Are you upset because you thought the blurb suggested a lecture-based event, or are you being snotty about hymn singing events? The final sentence suggests the latter.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As there seems to have been no response from the originator of this topic, perhaps we can end with the following extracts from a review of the event in a national publication:

 

Dearmer’s collection was first published in 1906, and its centenary was duly toasted two years ago. That did not prevent the composer, pianist, lively radio presenter and all-round sage David Owen Norris from paying singular tribute to this hymnological landmark, as part of 2008’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death.

 

Especially relevant to Lent was Mr. Norris’s inspired restoration to ‘Rockingham’ of the modal-sounding third line (the original by Samuel Webbe, posthumously published in 1820, and alluded to in RVW’s footnote), for Isaac Watt’s ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’. The emendation seemed utterly right, and infinitely preferable.

 

A splendid crowd-controller and ever-inventive rabble-rouser... added light was shone by Mr. Norris’s knowledgeable, spirited and well-versed commentary...

 

 

The organist was later described as 'supple' - certainly not a word which has been used before. Well, not in the Church Times, anyway.

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