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In His Temple - the music of Sir Edward Elgar

In His Temple - the music of Sir Edward Elgar cover picture

The Choir and Organ of St Paul’s, Rock Creek Parish, Washington DC USA

Director & Solo Organist: Graham Elliott
Organ accompanist: Neil Weston
Great is the Lord (Psalm 48), Opus 67

Ave verum corpus, Opus 2, No 1

Sonata in G (1st movement), Opus 28 Organ

O salutaris hostia

Ave Maria, Opus 2, No 2

Give unto the Lord (Psalm 29) Opus 74

O salutaris hostia

Doubt not thy Father’s care

Te Deum laudamus, Opus 34, No 1

Benedictus, Opus 34, No 2

Total playing time 58m 24s

In His Temple - the music of Sir Edward Elgar

In His Temple - the music of Sir Edward Elgar

Elgar’s sacred choral music possesses the same innate qualities so admired today in his orchestral music, namely an unerring sense for musical development and drama, allied to a glorious ear for melody. This selection follows him from early settings for the Roman Catholic liturgy, written after he had succeeded his father as organist at St George’s Church in Worcester, right through to his heyday as the Master of the King’s Musik, and laureate of the Empire, commissioned to write powerful settings such as Give unto the Lord for St Paul’s Cathedral in 1914.

The Sonata in G for organ, is Elgar’s only major work for the instrument. Structurally, it represents those works which first marked Elgar’s maturity as a composer, and established his national and international status. Although written for the much larger organ in Worcester Cathedral, it also demonstrates that the relatively modest new organ in St Paul’s is capable of remarkable versatility.

Great is the Lord (Psalm 48); opus 67. On 3rd June, 1912 (his fifty-fifth birthday), Elgar went to London’s Temple Church to hear Walford Davies try out this big anthem with words drawn from Psalm 48. The work had been written two years earlier, soon after the Violin Concerto, opus 61. It has some close associations with the concerto, with the opening instrumental motif closely following the primary subject of the concerto’s first movement. A further prominent figure from the beginning and end of the anthem is closely related to a theme in the Finale of the concerto. The anthem was given its first public performance in Westminster Abbey, in July, 1912, at a service to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Society. The work is for six-part choir and bass (baritone) solo.

Ave verum corpus, opus 2, no. 1 was originally written as a setting of the Pie Jesu, in memory of William Allen, Worcester attorney for whom Elgar worked as a fifteen-year old. Elgar arranged it as a setting of Ave verum corpus for publication in 1902, as a setting alternating soprano or tenor solos with choral verses.

The Organ Sonata in G, opus 28, was begun in April, 1895. Hugh Blair, the organist of Worcester Cathedral, had requested a new work to be played in the cathedral at a service to be attended by a party of American musicians in July of that year. Elgar resolved to write a four-movement sonata on a symphonic scale. The work was an important opportunity to continue Elgar’s rapidly maturing musical development, testing his skills in handling a large-scale symphonic structure without the added complexity of a large orchestra, allowing him to concentrate on horizontal development. The first movement opens grandly in G major with a theme reminiscent of his ballad for chorus and orchestra, The Black Knight, begun in 1892, and a most important work in the maturing art of this self-taught composer. The second subject is a pastoral and lyrical utterance in in compound triple time.

The Latin hymn, O salutaris hostia, is sung at the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Elgar’s settings date from the 1880s, when he was struggling to make a living as a provincial musician in his native Worcester and playing the organ in St George’s Roman Catholic Church. These works for choir and organ represent the simple style favored in the Catholic tradition of the time. The Ave Maria, opus 2, no 2, is a companion piece to Ave verum. A more substantial piece than its companion, it is dedicated to the wife of Elgar’s close Worcester friend, Hubert Leicester.

Give unto the Lord (Psalm 29), opus 74, was written in 1914, at the request of Sir George Martin, organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, and dedicated to him. The work was first performed at the annual festival of the Sons of the Clergy. It is scored for orchestra, organ and choir. The dramatic text is interpreted in splendid fashion, with memorable moments representing the breaking cedar trees and the shaken wilderness, contrasted with the serene B minor of ‘In His Temple’.

Doubt not thy Father’s care is a movement from the cantata Lux Christi (The Light of Life), opus 29, and dating from 1895. The libretto is by The Revd E. Capel-Cure. The movement is scored for soprano and alto in the key of d minor. The delicate movement is typified by felicitous use of alternative phrases between the two voices.

The Te Deum and Benedictus, opus 34, nos 1 & 2 were commissioned for the performance at the opening service of the 1897 Three Choirs Festival at Hereford Cathedral. The commission was given by George Robertson Sinclair, the cathedral organist, and friend and colleague of Elgar. Sinclair is immortalized - along with his bulldog, Dan - as G.R.S. in the Enigma Variations. The canticles are dedicated to Sinclair, and scored for orchestra or organ. The introduction to the Te Deum is archetypal Elgar nobilmente, leading to a thrilling choral explosion at the opening We praise Thee, O God. The symphonic treatment of themes and recapitulations is reminiscent of the first movement of the Organ Sonata, with the final pages of the Gloria to the Benedictus recalling the nobilmente utterances which heralded the Te Deum.

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish, is the oldest church in the Nation’s Capital. Indeed, it was founded long before Washington itself. The church records date from 1712, and the present building dates in part from 1725, and so may safely be described as one of the oldest buildings in the city. In 1719 it was endowed by Colonel Bradford with a glebe of 100 acres “whereon is timber for building said chappell and necessary houses for a glebe for the use of present and future ministers … forever.” The churchyard remains a wonderful oasis in the city of Washington, with its rolling hills, lily pond, specimen trees and rich variety of monuments.

In recent years the large 1920s Parish Hall has undergone major refurbishment and expansion to emerge as the St Paul’s Center. At the same time the historic church has had its first thorough restoration in a hundred years. The building is a special treasure, with its simple classical lines reminiscent of Wren’s post-Great Fire city of London churches. Indeed, it is interesting to reflect that St Paul’s was being established in its present form at the time that its then Mother Church, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, was being built. St Paul’s Cathedral was indeed the ‘mother church’ until American Independence in 1776, since the bishops of London held, in colonial times, authority over this area.

In recent years St Paul’s has developed a strong choral tradition, with a significant emphasis on the growing music and arts outreach. The small professional choir enjoys an unmatched acoustic at St Paul’s, and the music is now further enriched by the fine new Dobson organ, installed in 2004 as part of the restoration and reordering of the church.

For more information visit the church's website.

The Dobson Organ, Opus 80; 2004

The organ was built in 2004 by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd of Lake City, Iowa USA. It was conceived as a true romantic instrument: one that still respects traditional chorus building, employs a wide range of foundation tone, and thinks like a large organ even though it is relatively small.

Graham Elliott

Graham Elliott moved to the United States in November, 1999, to take up the appointment as Director of Music at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish, in Washington, DC. St Paul’s is the oldest church in the city, founded in 1712. The present building is set in one hundred acres of church land and dates from the first half of the eighteenth century.

Dr Elliott has come to Washington after eighteen years as Master of the Music at Chelmsford Cathedral. There he established the choral Foundation with an international reputation. He secured the daily choral services, and helped to raise the endowment to establish choral bursaries, and to build the two fine Mander organs. In addition to his cathedral work, Dr Elliott established an international annual arts festival. He was also professor at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and lectured and examined in the music department of Anglia University.

Graham Elliott was born in Wales. He studied organ, during his school years, with Dr Melville Cook, at Hereford Cathedral. He subsequently spent a year as a composition and organ scholar at The Royal Academy of Music. From there he went to be Organ Student at St George’s Chapel, in Windsor Castle.

At St Paul's, Washington, Graham Elliott has established a new week-long multifaceted Festival of the Arts, making use of the historic church, the large St Paul’s Center auditorium, and the extensive hundred acre Glebe. He formulated the plans for building two new organs, and for a wide-ranging arts and educational outreach program. He has been active in a ‘silent’ campaign to raise the funds for the organs, as well as raising the considerable sums for the annual Festival. The first of the organs was completed in time for the 2004 Rock Creek Festival, when the restored historic church was used for the first time. The first CD recording of the St Paul’s Choir was published on the Lammas label in 2002, titled So Come to Him.

For the months of September through November, 2001, he was 'on loan' to the National Cathedral as Acting Choirmaster. In that capacity he directed the choirs at the National Prayer Service on 14th September, which was broadcast worldwide. He also directed the music, and composed a special anthem, for the dedication of the final stained glass window in the Cathedral.

His research for the Master’s degree was into cathedral music in Britain in the 19th century. His doctoral research was into the music of Benjamin Britten. The results of this work will shortly appear in a book to be published by Oxford University Press, entitled Benjamin Britten: The Spiritual Dimension. Publication is due in the latter part of 2005.

Neil Weston

Neil Weston is Director of Music at Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Great Falls, VA, and Principal Organist at Temple Sinai in Washington, DC. A native of England, he studied at the Universities of Oxford and London, and the Royal Academy of Music, and spent four years as Assistant Master of the Music at Chelmsford Cathedral before moving to the United States in early 2000.

An organist, conductor, and continuo player, he has performed all over the world and appeared on numerous TV and radio broadcasts, and CD recordings. His performance style has been described by Musicweb as "exuding confidence, clarity, and precision;" the American Record Guide has complimented his "admirable playing," and the Organ Magazine has praised his "superb performances."

Recorded in St Paul’s, Rock Creek Parish, Washington DC USA on 2nd, 4th and 5th March 2005 by kind permission of the Rector

Produced by Philip Cave
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by Mauricio Franco