Published

OUP, 1931
Novello, 1938

 

Recordings

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis:
St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choir
Priory PRCD 554
(1996, CD )

Te Deum and Jubilate:
Norwich Cathedral Choir
Priory PRCD 470
(1994, CD )

Priory Records Online

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Church Music

You also ask about church music: I have a Te Deum and Jubilate at the Oxford Press; this is frequently to be heard on Sundays in cathedrals. Both Westminster Abbey and Southwark do it from time to time.

There is also a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (temporarily out of print) at the Oxford Press, and an anthem, Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem [R56]. Another short unaccompanied anthem is at Novello, the title of which I forget.

Letter to Lionel Hill
June 12th, 1943

 

The piece Moeran forgot in his letter to Lionel Hill was a 1938 anthem, Blessed are Those Servants (R74). This piece, written in 1938, was his only return to writing for the church after the brief spurt in 1930 which produced the other pieces he mentions.

From a man surrounded by family clergymen - his grandfather, father and brother were all vicars - it may seem odd that Moeran wrote so little for the church. Yet he was not a religious man, and described his output as 'this tripe for the church'. So why bother at all? The most obvious answer is that he wrote it for the money. By 1930 he was away from the Eynsford years and re-evaluating his mainstream output, as well as suffering bouts of ill-health and injury. He'd had very little published for several years, and saw this as a way to make some quick and easy money.

This does not explain his return to the church for the one-off 1938 anthem - perhaps he was asked for the piece - but it is clear that the 1930 work was well received, and both the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and the Te Deum and Jubilate have made it onto CD as part of the Priory series.

 

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D R55

Geoffrey Self writes: "It is no mean achievement to write a tune so strong, memorable and singable as the opening statement [of the Magnificat]. The Nunc Dimittis is similarly apt and masterly in its effortless art".

Although the distinctive voice of Moeran is barely obvious in the music, and one would not perhaps be inspired to explore his secular output from hearing these works alone, they are well written and not without interest. Mervyn Cousins commented in his 1996 sleevenotes: "His D major canticles show [lyricism and craftsmanship] within an overall simplicity - there is much two- as well as four-part writing, with canonic structures providing interest."

 

Te Deum and Jubilate in E flat R57

Moeran's morning canticles are quite diffierent in tone. Michael Nicholas wrote in 1993: "...strongly diatonic unison writing contrasts with the modal flavour of the harmonised passages. The choral writing, often heard over marching bass lines in the organ accompaniment, suggests Vaughan Williams and Holst... However, these movements have characteristics of their own, fitting well into the regular round of Anglican worship."

Certainly the longer Te Deum gives greater scope for creativity than any of the other works considered here, and one feels that if he dwelt on any of them it was the Te Deum which captured his imagination and allowed greatest scope for his powers of invention. Indeed, for someone so dismissive of his church output, Moeran was a regular visitor to Hereford Cathedral whenever he had the chance to hear these works performed.

 

Anthems

Of the two anthems I have managed to find little trace. No commercial recordings appear to exist, and they barely get a mention in Geoffrey Self's book. This is perhaps an interesting corner of Moeran's output for someone to explore in the future.


 

 

"The Nunc Dimittis is apt and masterly in its effortless art"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database