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Peter Hurford’s suite ‘Laudate Dominum’


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Having just inherited a box of redundant music from a retired organist which included Peter Hurford’s ‘Laudate Dominum’, I was struck how useful these pieces might be if imaginatively used for organ interludes in our next Nativity play.  The trouble is I am unfamiliar with this suite of six modern miniatures (based on Psalm verses). 

Is there anyone out there in the cyber-chancel who knew Hurford well enough to tell me how he went about composing his organ music / came up with this suite? Perhaps Wolsey, S_L or Ian van Deurne might know...

GC

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I'm afraid I can't help much. I think it was written in 1960/61 which would be when Hurford was Organist and Master of the Choristers at St. Alban's. The music is dedicated to Ralph Downes. Of the six movements it seems, judging by the number of YouTube recordings, that 'Meditation' is the most popular. At a total of 11 minutes playing time for the six pieces and with quotes from the Psalms heading each little piece, it does suggest that Hurford might have had some liturgical happening in mind when he wrote them.

 

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Thanks for that S_L. 

My biggest puzzle is the origins of item 5 ‘French Carol’.  The thing that I would like to know is where did Hurford get the theme?  What is the theme?  Is it something he got from his time in France with Andre Marchal without knowing it had English origins? 

Also, would he have composed at his desk or improvised and then written the piece out in full and in correct form? 

So has he improvised in error an existing English carol from a forgotten memory or extemporised knowingly and expanded upon the same?  A bit of work with the Carols for Choirs I and the Cowley and Oxford Carol books will reveal that the first 8 notes of his theme were part of an existing carol.  He would have known this surely (as would OUP) but there is no acknowledgment printed.  ‘Tis mystery all!

Whatever the answer one can certainly sing "Christmas is coming, the sevenths are getting flat."

 

GC

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I've listened to 'French Carol'. It's a well-known, well to me at any rate, tune but I can't for the life of me remember the name of it!! Senility is creeping in! The tune isn't in 'Oxford' - and there are several French tunes there!

I think they would have been composed at his desk. Hurford must have been able to improvise - he held the FRCO!! But, at St. Alban's, I suspect, he didn't need to. He had assistants who played for services and who would improvise short little pieces if the occasion arose. These are not lengthy improvisations. I suspect they were written for one of the many special Advent/Christmas services to fit in between readings or the like!  And also improvisation wasn't Hurford's 'big thing' - he was a Bach scholar!

Just my thoughts - but there are others on here who may, I suspect will, disagree!

 

 

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You could knock me down with a feather! I have never given this any thought, I must say, and assumed that French Carol was just the title Hurford gave that movement. Then someone mentioned that the opening sounds like a carol, and I assumed we were talking about A virgin most pure. But now I've looked this up - (p14 CforC 1) - and it's "English trad. arr. Charles Wood." Not much French about that! Is this the carol that you're thinking of, I wonder, S_L? I don't recognise any other sections of the tune but apart from the obvious few, I can't say I am knee-deep in French carols... and it doesn't seem to resemble any of the usual suspects.

As to where he was when he composed them... perhaps, like David Willcocks, he wrote music on the train. The 'Gopsal' Fanfare in OUP's Ceremonial Music for Organ I is one such piece - and O Lord, did I really buy it in 1971? How time flies!)

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No Martin - it isn't - I've got part of the tune in my head - and I'll grant you that 'A virgin most pure' is a very definite possibility - but it isn't that! The first three notes repeat and then go up and down the run - and then repeat again!!

Of course - I may be wrong!

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Tho' Hurford didn't compose much (or if he did didn't publish) what there is seems to be of good quality.

Is it worth making a quick list?

I'm aware of:

  • This suite, Laudate Dominum
  • Five Verses on a Melody from the Paderborn Gesangbuch
  • Litany to the HolySpirit

Anything else?

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24 minutes ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

Tho' Hurford didn't compose much (or if he did didn't publish) what there is seems to be of good quality.

Is it worth making a quick list?

I'm aware of:

  • This suite, Laudate Dominum
  • Five Verses on a Melody from the Paderborn Gesangbuch
  • Litany to the HolySpirit

Anything else?

Yes - there is also...

Paean (OUP Album of Praise) Written for the Truro Cathedral organ, but can't have been very effective at the time of its writing as the Tuba was buried in those days. Would be good now. A piece that doesn't deserve to be forgotten long with a couple of other meritorious pieces in that album - Gordon Jacob and Flor Peeters items especially.

Five Chorale Preludes (OUP) - several are beautiful regulars for me - Gibbons' Forth in thy name and Glory be to Jesus immediately come to mind, but there is also a Schmücke Dich which I ought to play more.

Two Dialogues (Novello) - great stuff.

A Fancy (OUP - Organ Music for Manuals only) - lovely sorbet-like music

Chorale Prelude on  'Dickinson College' (Volume 3 of the The Bristol Collection) - Looks a bit inpenentrable along with most of the music in all three of volumes of this series. 

Fanfare on Old 100th (OUP Ceremonial Music for Organ I) A great piece - but not not a faint-hearted congregation in a confined space. 

And that's before I start rummaging in my Henderson!! I have a feeling there are a couple of other bits and bobs in OUP albums of the 60s but I certainly don't play them. Dialogue No 1 was a Grade 8 ABRSM piece when I took it in 1973/4... and very good it is too... and No 2!! 

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He composed a considerable amount, and in different genres including songs and service settings, but, as you surmise, much of it is unpublished.  He was an alumnus of Jesus College Cambridge, and they publish a catalogue of his personal papers listing 135 compositions.  Inexplicably the version I have has introductions in Spanish!  A trawl through this would produce a sizeable list.

This is the rather strange link.  There may be another, more direct, one:

https://collegecollections.jesus.cam.ac.uk/index.php/informationobject/browse?page=3&names=47317&sf_culture=pt&sort=identifier&view=table&levels=233&showAdvanced=1&topLod=0&media=print

However, I haven’t been able to track down any specific source for the ‘French Carol ‘.

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2 minutes ago, Martin Cooke said:

Chorale Prelude on  'Dickinson College' (Volume 3 of the The Bristol Collection) - Looks a bit inpenentrable along with most of the music in all three of volumes of this series. 

And "Bristol Suite", based on the same tune and published by Novello in 1977.

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38 minutes ago, Martin Cooke said:

 

Five Chorale Preludes (OUP) - several are beautiful regulars for me - Gibbons' Forth in thy name and Glory be to Jesus immediately come to mind, but there is also a Schmücke Dich which I ought to play more.

 

The Schmücke Dich borrows heavily from the accompaniment of Litany to the Holy Spirit. I don't know which came first - both are marked copyright 1958.

I'd guess that the anthem came first - I'm not totally convinced by the choral prelude. However that might just be because I knew the anthem before I came across the choral preludes.

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7 hours ago, sbarber49 said:

The Schmücke Dich borrows heavily from the accompaniment of Litany to the Holy Spirit. I don't know which came first - both are marked copyright 1958.

I'd guess that the anthem came first - I'm not totally convinced by the choral prelude. However that might just be because I knew the anthem before I came across the choral preludes.

No, I quite agree, Stephen. I've looked it out today and it's a bit too quirky, harmonically, for its own good. But... I will the giving the Gibbons one an outing soon.

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There's also a chorale prelude on Nicea - in a book of 7 chorale preludes on English tunes by various contemporary composers published by OUP. (Also has the wonderful Rockingham by Leighton and the Rutter God rest you merry.)

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On 05/09/2020 at 17:50, General Cancel said:

Having just inherited a box of redundant music from a retired organist which included Peter Hurford’s ‘Laudate Dominum’, [...]

Is there anyone out there in the cyber-chancel who knew Hurford well enough to tell me how he went about composing his organ music / came up with this suite? Perhaps Wolsey, S_L or Ian van Deurne might know...

Sorry, no. Suite 'Laudate Dominum' dates from 1961 (as S_L says), some eighteen years before my studies with him.

 

On 06/09/2020 at 17:32, S_L said:

improvisation wasn't Hurford's 'big thing'

I'm afraid this is not quite accurate. His obituary in The Times last year mentioned that he was runner-up to Marie-Claire Alain in the improvisation contest at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1950. Moreover, improvisation continues to play an important part in the St Albans International Organ Festival. A little bit of research on the IOF website reveals that Catharine Crozier wrote in the Musical Times, August 1963: the IOF "was the first of its kind to be held in England. Its purpose was to revive a tradition of contrapuntal improvisation (my italics), and to encourage a high standard of musical style in performance... those who attended expressed the opinion that this had been a successful venture which should be continued." Notice that it precedes performance.

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