Howells and Stanford

The Third Episode of Obsessive Choral with Nico Muhly

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I live for cheesy mid-century choral music. Today: Herbert Howells and Charles Villiers Stanford.

Howells, who half-ironically styled himself after his Collegiate predecessors, knew his way around long, long lines. The melodies in Howells unfold like taffy: endless, unctuously unfolding strings of notes (usually with a million flats in the key signature). Stanford, for his part, can work a melody: check out the treble solo "I will stand upon my rock" halfway through his bellicose and insane anthem For Lo, I Raise Up.

The Howells Collegium Regale service (an absurd way of saying that he wrote it for King's College) is one of the short list of pieces I can sing all the way through from memory anytime, anywhere. The Gloria Patri in the Magnificat is, I think, the best thing England has produced since the Heptarchy.

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Nico Muhly

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