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A Somerset Composer


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I realise that this doesn’t really come under the heading of “General Discussion” about the organ but, if our moderator will allow it, I shall proceed.


Can anyone enlighten me with some solid facts about a West Country composer called Arthur S. Warrell? Of course, everyone knows his arrangement of “We wish you a merry Christmas”, and some may have chanced upon the splendid hymn tune “Farmborough”, in Songs of Praise No 689 and in some later editions of English Hymnal.


For some time I have had in my possession a copy of a setting of “A Lyke Wake Dirge”, published by OUP in 1932 but long out of print. Warrell’s setting, inscribed to Cyril Rootham, is in eight parts for double choir, unaccompanied and looks very exciting indeed. The song has a Christian message - roughly, the potential journey of the soul to paradise, assuming that one heeds the warnings of that which will be encountered on the way. (Shades of "Gerontius"!) I’m not sure how suitable it would be as an anthem during Lent, for example; there are, undoubtedly, some of our number far more qualified than I to pronounce upon the subject. I would be very grateful for their views. The words are readily available on the net; not all the verses are used in the setting: 1—4 and the last 3 - the ones about “Brig O’Dread”, have, mercifully, been omitted.




Does anyone know anything more about Warrell and what, if anything, he wrote besides the pieces quoted above? Google gives contradictory dates but I think that he was born in 1882 (or 3) and died in 1939. Born in Bath, or possibly at Farmborough near Bath; I can’t find much else at present.


Part-songs seem, sadly, to have fallen largely into disuse; I am sad to think that I may never hear the LWD in my lifetime. I don’t have access to a choir that could do it justice!


David Harrison

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This reply is probably even more marginal, but many years ago when I was organist & choirmaster in a small south London parish church I was also a member of a traditional (ie not sub-Baez 60s light church music stuff) "folk music" band. I played mandolin, whistle and keyboard and we also had guitar, fiddle, bazouki, bodhran, and we did some unaccompanied vocal stuff including the LWD; a very moving and powerful piece especially with the repeated "may Christ receive his/her/your soul". This does not help your enquiry I realise but you have brought back memories of a truly impressive piece of music.



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  • 3 weeks later...

From the Dictionary of Organs and Organists second edition of 1921 I found


Warrell Arthur Sydney FRCO 12 St Matthew's Rd, Cotham, Bristol. Born at Farmborough near Bath 1882. Trained Bristol Cathedral. O and C St Matthias 1900-1; St Agnes 1901-5; St Alban's 1905 and St Nicholas' since 1905 all of Bristol. Teacher of Music, University of Bristol Department of Education (Men) 1909.


Sadly nothing else about what he wrote!

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His entry in the 1912 edition of the same book is much the same, but adds a couple of extra snippets:

"WARRELL, ARTHUR SYDNEY, 27, Cotham Vale, Bristol. Born at Farmborough, near Bath, 1882. Educated at Farmborough School, and Merchant Venturers' College, Bristol. Organist and Choirmaster St. Matthias', 1900-1 ; St. Agnes', 1901-5 ; St. Alban's, 1905 ; and St. Nicholas', since 1905, all of Bristol. Teacher of Music, University of Bristol Elementary Training Department (Men), 1909."

He was already an FRCO, as appears from his mention in the entry for St Nicholas's, Bristol.

He does not figure in John Henderson's Dictionary of Organ Composers.

According to

www.nationalarchives.gov.uk the Bristol Record Office has a document (40396/1) that mentions him. The description runs: "Volume of newscuttings, concert programmes etc., Royal Orpheus Glee Society, conductors, George Risely, Arthur Warrell, Graham O. Harris. some loose programmes enclosed".

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