Workshop Details

William Croft



Saturday, 17 September 2011, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm

St Faith and St Laurence Church, Harborne, Birmingham

Tutor: Peter Leech


Peter Leech ran a workshop for us in 2008 on the music of English composer John Blow. On this occasion he introduces us to the sacred music of Blow’s successor as organist of Westminster Abbey.

Information provided for us by Peter:

SATB voices, stringed instruments, oboes, bassoons and continuo
Pitch A=415

Described by Sir John Hawkins as ‘a grave and decent man’, the composer William Croft, a probable native of Nether Eatington, Warwickshire, was one of the most talented native-born English baroque composers. Croft’s ‘full’ anthems (described, in the composer’s own words, as having been composed with the greatest respect for the ‘solemnity and gravity’ of earlier church music), were fine examples of compositional craft, yet very few of his church works seem to have reached the heights of popularity as those of his more illustrious colleague, George Frideric Handel. Had Croft lived long enough to preside over the Chapel Royal choir at the coronation of King George II, it is arguable that his probable musical contributions to that grand event might have been as substantial, at least in length, as Handel’s, and may have raised his profile considerably.

Known by choirs mostly for shorter anthems such as God is Gone up (a popular stalwart in Cathedrals, churches and chapels), there is fortunately much more to Croft than his relatively short ‘full’ anthems for the Chapel Royal. Croft’s superb yet much-neglected orchestral anthems contain a wealth of energetic choruses, vivid instrumental writing and virtuoso solo arias. Many of Croft’s anthems featured in his monumental published collection, Musica Sacra (1724), and were also subsequently printed in later eighteenth and early nineteenth-century anthologies, such as John Page’s Harmonia Sacra (1800) and Birchall’s New Edition of Thirty Select Anthems (c.1821). All three sources, as well as manuscripts, will be consulted in preparation for this workshop, which will explore the orchestral anthems O Give thanks and Rejoice in the Lord, O yet righteous, and other anthems such as Give the King thy judgements, O Lord grant the King a long life, Put me not to rebuke, We will rejoice, O Lord rebuke me not and Hear my prayer. Instrumental music will also be included, such as the theatre overture to The Twin Rivalls (1702).

International award-winning conductor Peter Leech is conductor of Harmonia Sacra, Collegium Singers, Aylesbury Choral Society, and Cappella Fede. For ten years, as conductor of the Bristol Bach Choir (1999-2008), he directed a series of innovative concerts featuring numerous rediscovered Baroque choral works. Well known for his inspiring and informative workshops on music from the late 16th to early 18th centuries, Peter is currently Chairman of SWEMF and is also an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University, working on an interdisciplinary project, ‘Recusant music and musicians in the British Isles, 1600-1750’. A regular contributor to Early Music (OUP) and other music journals, Peter’s recent career activity has included an appearance at the York Early Music Festival (2008), an engagement with the Coro di Teatro Comunale, Bologna (2010), co-producing the CD recording of his recently-discovered 17th-century keyboard manuscript, The Selosse Manuscript (Terence Charlston, 2010), recording 18th century Russian Orthodox choral works with Harmonia Sacra (2011), and publication of an article ‘Music and musicians in the Catholic chapel of James II, 1686-88’ for Early Music (August, 2011).

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