Page 36 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 36

   Jesus soit en ma teste et mon entendement.
Jesus soit en mes yeulx et mon regardement.
Jesus soit en ma bouche et mon parlement.
Jesus soit en mon cueur et en mon pensement.
Jesus soit en ma vie et mon trespassement. Amen.
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
Words: French, c.1490,
tr. Sarum Primer (1558) Tune: God be in my head Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869–1941)
On 6 September we mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the English
composer Sir Henry Walford Davies. Born in Oswestry in 1869, he was a chorister at Windsor Castle and was pupil assistant to Walter Parratt between 1882 and 1990. In 1890 he won a composition scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music under both Parry and Stanford. Then, in 1895, he became a teacher of harmony and counterpoint there. Meanwhile, he was successively organist at St George’s in Kensington, St Anne’s in Soho, and Christ Church, Hampstead, and in 1898
he became organist at the Temple Church, a post he held for 21 years. Between 1903 and 1907 he directed the Bach Choir, and in 1918 was appointed Director of Music for the newly formed RAF, composing their celebrated March Past, which combines the rhythm of the bugle call of the Royal Flying Corps with that of the Royal Naval Air Service. Unfortunately, his other music
is much less well known: two symphonies, an overture and
an impressive setting of Robert Browning’s poem Prospice. According to Grove’s Dictionary, only three of his choral works were performed at all between 1960 and 2000, ironic given that Everyman (1904) held popularity on a par with Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in its day. Revival of some of these works may well prove enlightening and satisfying.
From 1919 to 1926 Davies was a professor of music at Aberystwyth and in 1924 was appointed a professor of music in the University of London, succeeding Frank Bridge (who was Benjamin Britten’s teacher). In 1927 he returned to St George’s, Windsor as organist and was involved in the fledgling work of the BBC and the Welsh National Council of Music. He was knighted in 1932 and, after Elgar died, became Master of the King’s Musick in 1934. He wrote a book called The Pursuit of Music in 1935, which became popular in its day due to his ability to explain music in both technical and lay terms. Similarly, he was involved in early broadcasting and recordings for schoolchildren.
He died in Wrington, Somerset on
11 March 1941.
Davies’s legacy is clearly more than compositional. Alongside the RAF march, many will know and love his Solemn Melody (1908). They will also know the anthem Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a brief choral work that appears in most of the major hymn books. Let us now praise may take barely more than a minute to sing, but it occupies a beloved place in the English choral music repertoire. First published in 1910, it soon found its way into the Festival Service Book of the London Church Choir Association and was used in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1912.
The text had only recently resurfaced in the Oxford Hymn Book of 1908. Nevertheless, it has had several other settings, now much

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