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 )
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.
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
Letter to Lionel Hill
June 12th, 1943
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
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
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
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.
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"