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Vox Humana

English Voluntaries for the Corno Stop

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On 06/02/2018 at 17:50, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

A question for a another thread really, but one that I have wondered about, is are there (a) from the earlier period any responses later than Ebdon, or (b) from the twentieth-century revival any earlier than Rose? (Excluding local variants on the ferial responses - Durham, Norwich, Canterbury, etc.)

A related question (pair of questions) would be: when did choirs stop singing festal responses (other than the ubiquitous Tallis), and when did they start again?

Yes, this would have been worth a separate thread. :)

To answer your second question first, I would guess that choirs stopped singing festal responses when Oliver Cromwell put an end to cathedral services. What happened at the restoration I don't know. Maybe the practice was revived, but the only late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century settings I know are those by Richard Ayleward, Reading and Ebdon.

So far as I can gather, during the nineteenth century only two settings of the responses were sung: Ferial and Tallis, the latter being sung on festivals. That is actually a slight simplification since there were at least nineteen different editions of Tallis's "festal" responses and there are very significant differences between several of them, which are not confined to the argument about whether they were originally in four or five parts. George Elvey, for example, published a four-part edition which has prompted one commentator to wonder why on earth he ever put Tallis's name to it. A different version of these remained in use at St George's, Windsor under the title "Windsor Use" until Christopher Robinson arrived there. They are no great loss. In the nineteenth century Tallis's music (but actually only his Responses, Litany, the so-called Dorian Service and If ye love me) was held to be the ideal model for sober, devout church music and all sorts of concoctions were irresponsibly foisted upon him, including Anglican chants and even in one instance a standard, two-chord, plagal Amen! Tallis's responses were a standard fixture at all large choral services and festivals in the nineteenth century.

I think the renewed interest in settings of the responses must have arisen with the publication of the Fellowes/Atkins edition of the Tudor settings in the 1930s. In fact John Jebb had already published them all, except Morley's, in the mid nineteenth century, but they seem not to have caught on. I had a quick browse through the early Choral Evensong listings on BBC Genome Project. Composers for the responses do not begin to be credited until the 1940s and then it is just the familiar Elizabethan settings (including Tallis), apart from occasional references to "Westminster Use", "Bristol Use", or, in the case of Durham, Philip Armes. At Christ Church, Woburn Square, London in 1948-9 Michael Howard performed preces by Gibbons and by Thomas Hunt together with the Westminster Use responses after the Creed (because neither composer provided those). The first sign of anything more out of the ordinary (if indeed it was since I don't know the setting) was in March 1949 when Lancaster Priory, under Alan Stephenson, broadcast a set of responses supposedly by "Hylton Stewart". In fact these seem likely to be the same as the set Lancaster broadcast the following December when Henry Walmsley attributed them - surely correctly? - to [Haldane] Campbell Stewart (the perennial confusion between H. C Stewart and C. H. Stewart) - and I assume in turn that these were the preces and responses by "Stewart" that Bernard Rose broadcast from H. C. Stewart's old stamping ground, Magdalen College, in February 1962. So, unless the Stewart setting is anything special it may well be that Rose's 1961 set is the first modern-style setting of the responses.

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