From Venetian Basilica to English Cathedral

Well, it was a great thrill to bring Giovanni Croce’s Missa Percussit Saul back to life in our November Venetian Echoes – its first complete performance since the composer’s lifetime, as far as we have been able to discover. And thanks to our colleagues Roger Judd (organ) and the renaissance brass of Meridian Sinfonia for their contributions to that memorable evening.

Since then we have maintained our tradition of carol singing in the streets and pubs of Thames Ditton in aid of local charities and had an initial look at the music for our March 2016 programme – a survey of the glorious repertoire that has been inspired by our wonderful cathedrals and their choirs. This will begin with music by Henry Purcell from the Restoration era, acknowledge the anniversaries of William Sterndale Bennett (b1816) and Charles Wood (b1866) and end with William Harris’s post-romantic jewel Bring us, O Lord God, a setting of words by John Donne. We will also include ‘classics’ by Parry and Finzi.

Our enquiring spirit will be represented by the anthem O Lord, rebuke me not, a setting of verses from Psalm 6 by William Croft, London’s leading musician between the death of Purcell in 1695 and Handel’s decision to settle there in 1712. He was educated at the Chapel Royal, under John Blow; became organist of St Anne’s, Soho in 1700; and in 1707 he became Master of the Children at the Chapel Royal in succession to Jeremiah Clarke (of Trumpet Voluntary fame). The following year Croft succeeded Blow as organist of Westminster Abbey. In 1724, he published his Musica Sacra, the first collection of church music to be printed in the form of a score as opposed to a set of part books.

Croft was a great admirer, quite naturally, of Purcell and inherited his harmonic boldness. In preparing a new edition of this piece (the first in modern times to be complete, respectful of the composer’s note values and bar lengths and to offer an organ part in an appropriate style) I have sometimes wondered at what point this boldness ends and minor compositional inaccuracy/incompetence or errors by the printer/engraver begin. An important part of the rehearsal process will be the exploration of a few possible corrections to the original printed text.

News of these in my next post. Meanwhile, a Happy New Year from Conductor to Choir, and from Conductor & Choir to all our supporters as we begin our 70th anniversary year.