An English Farewell

Peter Nardone, conductor (Photo credit:

“Undimmed grief” is what composer Herbert Howells suffered when he and his wife suffered the loss of their son, Michael, aged nine, from polio. He wrote:

I am completely frozen and all the sympathy and kindness in the world couldn’t help. Friends tried, but I knew I had to get something out of me that had taken possession; I needed to write a special type of work. In the first year after he died I jotted down a few notes and put them in order in the following two years, when I was a little more social and sensible. It was completed in 1938 but it was a private document and I didn’t want to share it with the public.

The work, Hymnus Paradisi, was premiered at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival on Sept. 7, 1950, fifteen years and one day after the death of Howells’ son.

That was the closing work of the 2017 Three Choirs Festival which we heard tonight. It was based on the traditional words of the Requiem, in addition to the Lord’s Prayer, Sanctus, I heard a voice from heaven and Holy is the true light. 

At times there were some quiet, melancholy moments; other times great swaths of chords washed over us. Surprisingly it ended very quietly, a thoughtful end to a fantastic week of great music.

The other pieces on the program were Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music and Gerald Finzi’s and Dies Natalis.

As I experienced last year, this Festival has been off the charts in terms of music making at its highest level. What makes it so special are the cathedral acoustics, the extraordinary level of musicianship from soloists, choirs and orchestra; and the camaraderie that is built among the audience members. I mean, after sitting next to the same people night after night, concert after concert, you develop a bond.

Yup, you guessed it—I’ve already booked my hotel in Hereford for next year’s Three Choirs Festival!

P.S. Guess who I saw tonight—Stephen Strugnell who lives in Honolulu, and plays the organ at St. Timothy’s in Aiea, was here for the final concert!

Farewell, Worcester!

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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2 Responses to An English Farewell

  1. john bicknell says:

    Dear Kathy, thanks for sharing these moments with us. I am so happy that you can attend these most important events, sincerely jb

  2. Tim Carney says:

    What a program! Three of my favorite pieces in the world.

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