Herbert Norman Howells

Herbert Norman Howells

Birth
Lydney, Forest of Dean District, Gloucestershire, England
Death 23 Feb 1983 (aged 90)
Putney, London Borough of Wandsworth, Greater London, England
Burial Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 20480497 · View Source
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Herbert Howells, composer, is best known for his large quantity of music for the Anglican church. His compositions include music for the church, for orchestra, for military band, for school classrooms, and for solo instruments. He was born in Gloucestershire, England and was a boyhood friend of fellow composer and Gloucester native Ivor Gurney. Other composers from Gloucestershire include Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Howells' musical ability was noticed early in his life. He studied organ as a boy, then attended the Royal School of Music in London under Stanford, who took a paternal interest in the young man. His brief engagement as assistant organist at Salisbury Cathedral in 1917 was cut short by Graves' Disease; indeed, he was one of the earliest recipients of the then-new radiation therapy. In his twenties and thirties Howells composed chiefly orchestral and chamber music, including two piano concertos, choral cantatas, and a great deal of occasional music for symphonic ensembles. He was sensitive to criticism; he quit composing for a while. The death of his nine-year-old son Michael from polio in 1935 unleashed a new period of creativity, causing Howells to look elsewhere when he eventually did begin composing again. He was not a church-goer, but his music from the 1940's on is identified with the Anglican choral tradition. "Hymnus Paradisi" for chorus and orchestra was composed after his son's death but, as a deeply personal document, not released for performance until 1950, at the insistence (according to Howells' own account) of his close friend and mentor Ralph Vaughan Williams. It incorporates passages from an unaccompanied Requiem, begun before Michael's death but not published until 1981, with a dedication to his memory. "Hymnus Paradisi" was the first of four large-scale sacred choral works. His "Missa Sabrinensis" (Mass of the Severn) is a sizeable, concert-length work on the same scale, in terms of length and forces required, as Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis." "An English Mass" is scored for significantly smaller forces, is performed almost entirely in English, and follows the Anglican tradition of placing the Gloria last. The work was intended to be used in the Anglican service. Finally, Howells' setting of the "Stabat Mater," at about 50 minutes, is one of the longest extant settings of that text. Howells is particularly known for his large output of Anglican church music, including a complete 'daily office' for King's College, Cambridge and settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for the choirs of St. Paul's and Gloucester Cathedrals, amongst nearly 30 others. The motet "Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing" was written shortly after the assassination and dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy. His music is in the repertory of most western Anglican cathedral choirs and major parish choirs; the "Requiem" is a staple for unaccompanied professional choruses in the United States. Howells' only daughter, Ursula Howells, became a noted British actress. She died in 2005. Howells is buried in the north choir aisle at Westminster Abbey, just a few feet from his dear friend Vaughan Williams, and near to the graves of Purcell, Gibbons, and Blow, all Canon Musicians at Westminster Abbey in previous centuries.


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  • Created by: Jeffrey Carter
  • Added: 16 Jul 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20480497
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Herbert Norman Howells (17 Oct 1892–23 Feb 1983), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20480497, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Jeffrey Carter (contributor 46922641) .