I was fascinated by a listing in The Times in the run up to Easter, itemising the musical settings due to be performed at Cathedrals, Royal Chapels, Choral Foundations and London Churches on Easter Day. The compiler, Deborah King, named 88 institutions across the UK, and provided service times and the music to be sung for each.
There was no commentary from the author, which made it all the more fascinating a listing for the conclusions the readers could draw for themselves. With liturgical repertoire, it is wonderfully beneficial to composers that the tradition is to name the setting after the composer, as in Schubert in G or Stanford in A. To her credit, Deborah King was meticulous in naming each and every composer regardless of whether their name appeared in the title in this traditional manner. For example Wood, Collegium Regale or Mozart, Coronation Mass, were also fully listed.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. What repertoire are these venerable, historic and often renowned establishments serving up to their congregations? Of course there is a very good spread of the aforementioned ‘Composers in Key’, and notably Stanford (15 services), but also, Dyson, Darke, Bairstow and Brewer. The French organist composers also get a good look in with Langlais, Widor, Durufle and Vierne.
Returning to the British Isles, the more recent repertoire was led by Howells and followed by Mathias. William Walton, and Vaughan Williams also make appearances, but the name that really caught my eye, was Dove – Jonathan Dove. His Missa Brevis featured in no fewer than 5 locations, out-pacing Missa Brevis by Britten and followed at some distance by his younger contemporary Gabriel Jackson whose Missa Triueriensis was down to be performed (unsurprisingly) at Truro Cathedral who had commissioned it in 2005.
Jonathan Dove is not the first British composer to take flight on the wings of liturgy and bless Deborah King for putting an Easter spotlight on him and 34 other composers.
Final statistics – 35