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.

The birthplace of Herbert Howells

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