Robert Crowley plays music by Alan Ridout, Humphrey Clucas, Peter Wishart and Humphrey Searle on the organ of Canterbury Cathedral
The main part of this programme is devoted to music by Alan Ridout and Humphrey Clucas, composers whose work is closely linked with the Anglican organ and choral tradition. Alan Ridout’s The Seven Last Words is an established masterpiece, and Humphrey Clucas’ recent Symphony for Organ is his most significant and ambitious work so far. Closely argued and tightly structured, the Symphony’s three movements show a remarkable consistency of style and expression, and the work deserves to become more widely known. In contrast, Peter Wishart and Humphrey Searle wrote relatively little for the organ. It is a feature of English twentieth century music that many composers produced little or no organ music, although a number (like Humphrey Searle) played the organ at an early age. It is hoped that this CD will help to bring the organ music of all four composers represented to a wider audience. Allan Wicks made a number of distinguished recordings of organ works by Alan Ridout (including The Seven Last Words) when he was the Organist at Canterbury Cathedral, but these recordings are not currently available. This present CD follows Robert Crowley’s recent recordings of music by Alan Ridout (Canterbury Cathedral) and Humphrey Clucas (St Albans Cathedral), both on the Lammas label.
In his prolific career, Alan Ridout (1934-1996) composed a total of fifteen operas (including several for children), eight symphonies, twenty five concertos for various instruments, seven string quartets and numerous shorter orchestral, choral and instrumental pieces. He studied with Gordon Jacob and Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, and subsequently with Peter Racine Fricker, Michael Tippett and Henk Badings (with a Netherlands Government Scholarship). Although he was not an avant garde composer, his interests were wide, ranging from medieval polyphony to electronic music and serialism; his Psalm for Sine Wave Generators (1959) was one of the first pieces of electronic music by an English composer. He also wrote a number of pieces in the 31-tone temperament, using microtones. Alan Ridout was a Professor of Theory and Composition at the Royal College of Music from 1960 to 1984, and he also taught at the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge and London. Much of his church and organ music was written for performance at Canterbury Cathedral while Allan Wicks was Organist there, and he also taught at the Choir School, and then at the King’s School, for many years. Alan Ridout moved to France towards the end of his life, settling in Vitré and then moving to Caen. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church at Ampleforth Abbey in 1994.
Humphrey Clucas was born in 1941, and read English at King's College, Cambridge, where he was a choral scholar. Having taught English in schools for twenty-seven years, while maintaining a separate singing career, he finally gave up teaching on his appointment as a Lay Vicar (member of the choir) of Westminster Abbey, from which he retired in 1999.
As a composer, he is self-taught, and though he is well known for a set of Responses, written as an undergraduate, nearly all his serious work has been done in the last twenty-five years. He has written a great deal of choral music, much of it liturgical; between May and December 2000, for instance, he wrote settings of the Evening Canticles for Westminster Abbey and for Ripon and Southwark Cathedrals, and a morning canticle (the Benedictus) for Guildford. But there are also concert works for unaccompanied choir (including a Requiem) and for choir and orchestra, a Housman song cycle for counter-tenor, a Clarinet Sonatina, and several works for double bass.
Peter Wishart (1921-1984) studied at Birmingham University and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He taught at Birmingham University, King’s College, London and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before being appointed Professor of Music at the University of Reading in 1977. His career combined composition, conducting, accompanying and writing about music. His works include two symphonies, two violin concertos, four operas, chamber, instrumental and choral works and song cycles. Dedicated to Martindale Sidwell, who gave the first performance, the Pastorale and Fughetta was published in 1961. Both movements have a transparency of texture and an overall simplicity and directness, with lively rhythms and a colourful harmonic style. A feature of the Fughetta is the combination of 2/4 and 6/8 time signatures, where the subject in 6/8 is accompanied by a repeated pattern in 2/4.
A Professor at the Royal College of Music and an expert on the music of Liszt, Humphrey Searle (1915-1982) was one of the leading composers of his generation in this country. He studied at the Royal College of Music and with Anton Webern in Vienna. His output was extensive, including three operas, five symphonies, two piano concertos, much orchestral and chamber music and three ballet scores. Humphrey Searle composed the Cyprus Dances in Limassol in April 1981, as a response to a commission from Robert Crowley. He had already composed two earlier organ pieces, the Toccata alla Passacaglia Op 31 and Fantasy-Toccata Op 57. Several melodies appear in the Cyprus Dances, and the piece as a whole is strongly rhythmical, with a frantic, exuberant climax.
Robert Crowley is currently Director of Music and Chapel Organist at St George's School, Harpenden. He received his early musical training with Martin Neary as a chorister at St Margaret's Church, Westminster and he studied the organ with Martindale Sidwell at the Royal Academy of Music, subsequently studying with Susi Jeans and Arthur Wills. At the RAM he was awarded the Recital Diploma for Organ, also winning the Henry Richards and Frederick Keene Organ Prizes. Robert Crowley is particularly interested in contemporary music, and has commissioned pieces from a number of composers. He has recently been made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.
The Organ of Canterbury Cathedral
The Cathedral Organ was built in 1886 by Henry Willis. It has been enlarged four times since then but subsequently reduced to its original size but greatly enhanced during the most recent rebuild, in 1978, by N P Mander Ltd It has always been sited in the south triforium but the 1978 rebuild saw it moved to the very front of the area and arranged in clear departments. A Nave division (not used in this recording) was also added at this time.
animus, 4 Rawlinson Street, Dalton-in-Furness LA15 8AL.
Grateful thanks to Dr David Flood (Organist and Master of the Choristers), the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, Dr Allan Wicks, Robert Scott, Humphrey Clucas, Fiona Searle, Maureen Lehane Wishart and Noel Clarke
Recording sponsored by Robert Scott and the Jarvis (Harpenden) Charitable Trust
Psalm Prelude and Symphony for Organ by Humphrey Clucas were recorded in the presence of the composer
Symphony for Organ by Humphrey Clucas and Cyprus Dances by Humphrey Searle were commissioned by Robert Crowley
Recorded in Canterbury Cathedral on 26th and 27th October 2004 by kind permission of Dr David Flood and the Dean and Chapter
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Cover photograph: a window in Chichester Cathedral taken by Lance Andrews