Hymns sung by the Choirs and Congregation of Blackburn Cathedral
Director: Richard Tanner
Organ: Greg Morris
Loving Shepherd of thy sheep Richard Tanner
Thy hand, O God has guided Basil Harwood, descant Richard Tanner
O God of earth and altar Traditional, arr. Richard Tanner
Hymn for St. Cecilia Herbert Howells
Crown him with many crowns George Elvey, descant David Cooper, brass arrangement Richard Tanner
Holy Spirit, ever dwelling Herbert Howells
Eternal Ruler Orlando Gibbons
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty Praxis Pietatis, arr. Charles V. Stanford
Loving Father Violet Barnett, arr. Richard Tanner
Hark what a sound R.R.Terry, descant Richard Tanner
Servant King Graham Kendrick, arr. Richard Tanner
Lord for the years Michael Baughen, arr. Simon Lole
Amazing grace American folk-hymn, arr. John Bertalot
Steal away Afro-American, arr. John Bertalot
Let all the World Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ye watchers and ye holy ones Ralph Vaughan Williams, arr. Richard Tanner
Close thine eyes Mary Plumstead
Peace, perfect peace Orlando Gibbons, arr. Ian Tracey
Jubilate, Collegium Regale Herbert Howells
Make us Holy Chris Chivers
How shall I Sing that Majesty Ken Naylor, descant Lyndon Hills
God be in my head Herman Brearley
Angel voices Edwin George Monk, arr. Richard Tanner
Total playing time 71m 23s
Loving Shepherd - Hymns
“A hymn is the praise of God by singing. A hymn is a song embodying the praise of God. If there be merely praise but not praise of God it is not a hymn. If there be praise, and praise of God, but not sung, it is not a hymn. For it to be a hymn, it is needful, therefore, for it to have three things – praise, praise of God, and these sung”.
As Cathedral musicians, we enjoy a wealth of wonderful repertoire every day of our lives, from Plainsong to Macmillan, via Palestrina, Byrd, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Handel, Purcell, Stanford, Parry, Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Britten, to name but a few. However, for many people who attend Church, it is hymnody, above all, that is the music that brings them closest to God. In fact, it was the singing of hymns as a very young child (even as I was learning to talk) that drew me not only to the Church, but also to a life of music making.
It is with this in mind that I decided to undertake a recording, not of music by a great composer or of a compilation of grand cathedral anthems, but of hymns. I have endeavoured to present both hymns from contrasting musical traditions written over a period of almost half a millennium, and also a variety of ways in which to perform hymns utilising the range of musical resources that we are proud to boast at Blackburn Cathedral.
We start with an original composition that I wrote for the Baptism of my son, James, in 2000. Jane Leeson’s children’s hymn, Loving Shepherd of thy sheep is most often sung to the tune ‘Buckland’ by L.G. Hayne, a tune that I am extremely fond of. However, for James, I was keen to write a tune of my own, drawing unashamedly upon compositions by John Rutter, Barry Rose and Simon Lole for inspiration in terms of style.
The disc also contains further original compositions, which are not immediately recognisable as hymns. Herbert Howells’ Hymn for St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, with words by Ursula Vaughan Williams, was written for The Livery Club of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. His Jubilate, written for use in the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge, whilst being a setting of Psalm 100, most certainly meets St Augustine’s criteria for classification as a hymn. Let all the World, the text of which is often sung to the hymn tune “Luckington” by Basil Harwood, is here heard in a setting by Vaughan Williams. It is the final movement of his “Five Mystical Songs” with texts by George Herbert. Close thine eyes – an evening hymn of King Charles I – is set to a beautiful melody by Mary Plumstead and has a Blackburn connection, in that the copy states that the piece was “Sung by Kathleen Ferrier”, the legendary twentieth century singer who began her musical studies at Blackburn Parish Church (now Cathedral) with Herman Brearley, its first cathedral organist.
Brearley’s setting of God be in my head, a text which appears in many hymn books set to a tune by Walford Davies, is here heard in a version composed for the service to celebrate the elevation of Blackburn Parish Church to Cathedral status. A further setting of a short prayer is also included on the recording. Make us Holy, by Chris Chivers, currently Canon Chancellor of Blackburn Cathedral, was written for the RSCM South Africa Summer School in Cape Town in 2005.
Arrangements of Amazing Grace and Steal away to Jesus by John Bertalot, another former Organist of Blackburn Cathedral, also feature. Both of these texts seem to be firmly established in contemporary hymnals. Amazing Grace was arranged for Todd Wilson and The Covenant Choir, The Church of the Covenant, Cleveland, Ohio, whilst Steal Away was arranged for Philippa Hyde and the Choristers of Blackburn Cathedral to sing on BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service on 10th September 2001. Whenever we perform this beautiful arrangement, I am always haunted by the memory of the tragedy that took place on the following day.
As a regular Musical Director on BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service, I often get called upon to arrange hymns for broadcast. A number of arrangements on this recording have been written for this purpose, including Walking in the Garden (for Manchester Chamber Choir), Loving Father, hear our song and Servant King, as have my descants to Thy hand O God, has guided (Thornbury) and Hark what a sound (Highwood). Professor Ian Tracey (organist of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral) also arranged his setting of Peace, perfect peace, to a tune by Orlando Gibbons, for The Daily Service. Written for broadcast by the BBC were Simon Lole’s arrangement of Lord for the years (Lord of the Years) and my arrangement of O God of earth and altar (Kings Lynn). These hymns appeared on a programme from the BBC1 Songs of Praise series that was filmed in Blackburn Cathedral in 2003.
A descant by Lyndon Hills, organist of Preston Parish Church, is heard in the last verse of John Mason’s How Shall I Sing that Majesty, sung to Ken Naylor’s “Coe Fen”, a tune that is regarded by many as one of the finest hymn tunes of the latter half of the twentieth century.
Blackburn Cathedral’s Young People’s Choir sings a setting by Herbert Howells of words by Timothy Rees, Holy Spirit, ever dwelling (Salisbury), Charles Villiers Stanford’s arrangement of Praxis Pietatis, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (a hymn-anthem written to follow his Bible Song No. 5, “A Song of Battle”) and Orlando Gibbons’ setting of John Chadwick’s Eternal ruler of the ceaseless round (Song 1).
The YPC sing this lovely tune without accompaniment, but many of the hymns on this recording are enriched by the magnificent, thrilling and varied sounds of the organ of Blackburn Cathedral, played most colourfully by Greg Morris. Some people may be disappointed that no hymns are accompanied by piano, guitar or worship group, and indeed some of these hymns would lend themselves well to being performed in these ways. In three hymns, choirs and congregation are, however, joined by Northern Festival Brass and local musicians, Eric and Ben Millest playing percussion, in arrangements written for special occasions at Blackburn Cathedral.
Two of these, Ye watchers and ye holy ones and Crown him with many crowns were written for the Service of Thanksgiving for the Ministry of the Right Reverend Alan Chesters as Bishop of Blackburn in 2003. Crown him with many crowns incorporates a descant by David Cooper, who was organist when Bishop Chesters was enthroned as Bishop. The descant to Angel Voices ever singing was written for the wedding of former Cathedral Choirman, Anthony Tattersall to Kerry in 1999. Just ten days earlier, the Princess Royal visited Blackburn for the Service of Rededication of the Lantern Tower at which this hymn was also sung to this brass arrangement. I can’t help thinking that this would be one of St Augustine’s favourite hymns, were he alive today, for there can be few hymns that so perfectly embody the praise of God through song.
Music at Blackburn Cathedral
How do we sing the Lord's song in a strange land – the strange land of early twenty-first century society? That's not the question that most people ask me about the music at Blackburn Cathedral, but perhaps it should be. By contrast what they normally ask me is how many times a week the choir sings Evensong.
In answering ththis rather narrower question, I find myself questioning the assumptions that lie behind it. It's a question that may make some sense when asked amid the context of many other cathedrals – with traditions of music centuries long and choir schools as old - but in post-industrial Blackburn it has, I believe, to be posed in a very different way. For though we have a first rate organ – one of the best in the country – a beautiful and resonant building within which to offer worship, and a gifted staff of musicians – organists, organ scholars, choir directors and singing teachers – we don't possess a traditional infrastructure to carry this forward.
This means that since Blackburn Parish Church was raised to the status of a cathedral in 1926, we have faced the exciting and demanding challenge of creating an educational and musical framework that suits local circumstance.
We could have paralleled the kind of set-up one might find in other cathedrals, but instead we have tailor-made a range of musical opportunities for children (both boys and girls) from 5 to 18 years of age and beyond, and for adults of all ages.
There's a children's choir for 5 to 8 year olds who rehearse weekly and contribute to worship from time to time. There are boy choristers from 8 to 13 years old who meet on four days each week, and sing Evensong on Wednesdays and Sundays, as well as at the weekly Cathedral Eucharist. There are two choirs of girls of a similar age - and into their late teens – who rehearse weekly, often sing Evensongs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on occasion at the weekends. All of the boys and girls are volunteers - as are the men who sing with them – volunteers, supported by parents who bring them to rehearsals and services.
To encourage girl and boy choristers to continue their singing, there's a Young People's Choir which spans the late teens and early twenties, who provide music for the Parish Eucharist each Sunday. The Renaissance Singers too, an adult chamber choir, also enrich the cathedral's musical life – largely through concerts, but also within worship on annual occasions such as the Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day Eucharists.
Through partnerships with the Local Education Authority’s Music Service, there are opportunities for young instrumentalists to give lunchtime recitals, and there is a programme of musical events that enables local children to experience the splendour of Blackburn Cathedral. Through the same partnership, there are workshops in schools led by members of the music department. We also lead workshops, give concerts and provide music for special services in churches across the Diocese, and undertake recordings, broadcasts, tours, concerts (many with the leading orchestras of the North West) and the commissioning of new music; all of which means that almost 200 people are involved in music making in the cathedral in an average week.
We may not sing Evensong as often as do other cathedrals, but we offer what we believe to be a depth and range of musical and educational opportunity which models common values of commitment, service, excellence and enjoyment for the whole community.
How do we sing the Lord's song in a strange land – the strange land of early twenty-first century society? We get as many people to sing it as possible because we see that in doing so we are advancing the mission and ministry of the church, a church which says to each and every person: your talents and gifts are precious. They are to be used for God's glory.
Richard Tanner has been Organist and Director of Music at Blackburn Cathedral since June 1998. At Blackburn he has led a music programme which has grown considerably under his leadership.
As well as championing the work of the historic Cathedral Choir of boys and men and supporting the work of the Young People's Choir, Richard has developed singing opportunities for girls, and for children aged 5 to 8. He has founded The Friends of Blackburn Cathedral Music, presided over the restoration of the world class Cathedral Organ and formed many important partnerships in the local community. There have been a number of radio and television broadcasts featuring the choirs of the Cathedral and many commercial recordings have been made in the Cathedral.
As well as leading one of the busiest and most wide ranging musical programmes in any English Cathedral, Richard also enjoys an exciting freelance career. He is in increasing demand as a freelance choral and orchestral conductor. As a record producer he has worked on over twenty five discs with some of the leading organists, choirs and conductors in the UK. As an organist, he is busy as a recitalist and also enjoys giving concerts with his wife, the soprano Philippa Hyde, in the UK and further afield. Richard is a regular Musical Director and Organist on BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service and he has also worked on BBC TV’s Songs of Praise as Conductor, Organist, Arranger and Musical Adviser on a number of occasions.
Future plans include conducting the Northern Chamber Orchestra in the world première recording and performance of a new Organ Concerto written by David Briggs specifically for the recently restored Blackburn Cathedral organ. Requiem, by David Briggs, will also appear on the recording, sung by The Northern Consort of Voices, formed by Richard and featuring some of the best professional singers from the North of England.
Richard was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, student at the Royal Academy of Music, and organ scholar of Exeter College, Oxford and St Albans Cathedral. Immediately before moving to Blackburn, he spent five years as Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, Northampton. Further information can be found at his website.
Born in Manchester, Greg Morris began to study the organ with Andrew Dean at the Manchester Grammar School. He subsequently held organ scholarships at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Jesus College, Cambridge and St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. While at Cambridge, he held a music exhibition as well as directing and accompanying the two chapel choirs. In September 2000 Greg took up the post of Assistant Director of Music at Blackburn Cathedral. He conducts the Young People’s Choir, which under his direction has visited Rome on its first foreign tour and broadcast live on BBC Radio 4. Greg also accompanies the Cathedral Choir and Cathedral Girls’ Choir, and with them has visited Germany, The Czech Republic and USA, and broadcast on BBC Radios 3 & 4, as well as BBC TV’s Songs of Praise. He is a regular organist for Radio 4’s Daily Service.
Greg has studied the organ with Paul Stubbings, John Kitchen and Thomas Trotter. He gained his FRCO diploma in 2000, winning both major prizes. Greg performs regularly as a soloist throughout the UK and abroad. Recent recital venues have included The Queen’s College, Oxford, King’s College, Cambridge, and Westminster Abbey. His first solo CD, Sounds Inspirational, which features music by composers including Bach, Buxtehude, Duruflé and Messiaen, is available on the LAMMAS label, and has received widespread critical acclaim. Future plans include the world première recording and performance of a new Organ Concerto written by David Briggs specifically for the recently restored Blackburn Cathedral organ.
Produced by Simon Lole and Lyndon Hills
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Recording assistant: Andrew Bell
Photograph of St Lawrence Church, Longridge taken by Peter Madeley