Hymn Tune Journeys: Down Ampney
The famous Pentecost hymn “Come down, O Love divine” is frequently sung to the tune Down Ampney written by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906. Named after the Cotswold village where he was born in 1872, Down Ampney is also home to All Saints’ Church where his father, Arthur, was vicar and where Ralph was baptized. The church was built in the 13th-century and is situated on the edge of the village in a very bucolic setting. The Old Vicarage where Ralph was born on 12 October is located in the village proper and is now a private home.
Composer Journeys: Herbert Howells
Composers and musicians come from all sorts of family backgrounds. Some were born into privileged circumstances while others were less fortunate. Some were exposed to music through their family while others had no musical family whatsoever. Go figure! For Ralph Vaughan Williams, he was exposed to church music very early as his father was an Anglican vicar. For Herbert Howells, it was a little different. His father was a jack-of-all-trades handyman who struggled financially. Unlike RVW who was born in a vicarage, Herbert (the youngest of several children) was born in a modest house on the High Street in Lydney, Gloucestershire. But his father was also an organist at a local Baptist church, and young Herbert would occasionally substitute for him. As he showed musical promise, a local squire arranged for him to have lessons at Gloucester Cathedral. Some years later at the cathedral he heard the premier of a work by a little-known composer (at the time), the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and made his acquaintance with Ralph Vaughan Williams that evening. No matter the birthplace, musical greatness can come from anywhere. I took a trip to Lydney and paid homage to that greatness.
Holy Trinity Church Organ Restoration
In a few short months the organ at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon will go silent. This is not a bad thing as much-needed restoration work will be taking place which was deferred due to the pandemic. Major scaffolding will be put in place and all pipework will be removed. Leather actions and mechanical parts will be removed and rebuilt, and soundboards and other wind chests cleaned, repaired, and restored. Leaking wind lines, a major source of noise throughout the church when the organ is on, will be replaced with new. Rough-sounding pipes will be reworked to speak properly. And console issues, including worn key bushings and pedals, will be addressed. All to begin right after New Year’s Day, so it’s time to make the most of what we have right now as the organ will be gone until just before Easter…and what a glorious Easter that should be!