70th Anniversary of the death of Percy Whitlock
Whitlock was born in Chatham, Kent. A student of Vaughan Williams at London's Royal College of Music, Whitlock quickly arrived at a musical idiom that combined elements of his teacher's output and that of Elgar. His lush harmonic style also bore traces of Gershwin and other popular composers of the 1920s. Stanford, Rachmaninov and Roger Quilter are other important stylistic influences. Like Vaughan Williams and Frederick Delius, he often used themes that sounded like folk songs but were, in fact, original creations.
From 1921 to 1930 Whitlock was assistant organist at Rochester Cathedral in Kent. He served as Director of Music at St Stephen's Church, Bournemouth for the next five years, combining this from 1932 with the role of that town's borough organist, in which capacity he regularly played at the local Pavilion Theatre. After 1935 he worked for the Pavilion Theatre full-time. A tireless railway enthusiast, he wrote at length and with skill about his interest. Sometimes, for both prose and music, he used the pseudonym Kenneth Lark. He worked closely with the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, with which he gave dozens of live BBC broadcasts between 1933 and his death. The orchestra's conductor from 1935 to 1940 was Richard Austin, whose father Frederic Austin dedicated his Organ Sonata to Whitlock.
Among Whitlock's organ works are Five Short Pieces (1929), Four Extemporisations (1933; these are actually much more cogent than their title suggests), Seven Sketches on Verses of the Psalms (1934), the Plymouth Suite (1937–1939) and the Sonata in C minor (1936). His Symphony in G minor for organ and orchestra was revived by Graham Barber and the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra in 1989 and subsequently recorded by Francis Jackson, and the University of York Symphony Orchestra. Nevertheless, Whitlock's creative gifts expressed themselves most completely in the smaller forms, and as a miniaturist he can stand alongside many composers much better remembered than he.
Whitlock was diagnosed with tuberculosis in his twenties, and also suffered from hypertension. Near the end of his life he lost his sight altogether, and he died in Bournemouth a few weeks before his 43rd birthday. (Wikipedia)
Sunday 3rd April - The Second Sunday of Easter
Prelude: Folk Tune (Five Short Pieces, 1930) – Whitlock
Communion: Andante tranquillo (Five Short Pieces) – Whitlock
Postlude: Paean (Five Short Pieces) – Whitlock
Sunday 10th April - The Third Sunday of Easter
Prelude: By the sleepy lagoon – Eric Coates
Composed in 1930, the inspiration for the “sleepy lagoon” was actually the view from Selsey across to Bognor Regis! In 1942, it was chosen as the theme tune to “Desert Island Discs”.
Communion: Rhosymedre – Vaughan Williams
The second of “Three Preludes founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes” published in 1920.
Postlude: Allegro risoluto (Plymouth Suite, 1937) – Whitlock
Sunday 17th April - The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Prelude: Duetto (Seven Sketches, 1934) – Whitlock
Communion: Pastorale (Seven Sketches) – Whitlock
Postlude: Exultemus (Seven Sketches) – Whitlock
Sunday 24th April - The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Prelude: March and Passacaglia (The Death of Falstaff) - William Walton
Communion: Touch her soft lips and part - William Walton
Postlude: Deo Gracias (Six Hymn Preludes, 1923/44) – Whitlock
Yesterday was the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Walton's three pieces from the 1941 film of “Henry V” complement Whitlock's prelude on the well-known Agincourt song.
Sunday 1st May - The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Prelude: Chanty (Plymouth Suite, 1937) – Whitlock
Communion: Allegretto (Five Short Pieces, 1930) – Whitlock
Postlude: Calling All Workers – Eric Coates
Whitlock died on 1st May 1946 at the early age of 43.
Coates' march, dating from 1940, is famous as being the theme tune of “Music While You Work” on the BBC Light Programme, which ran from 1940 to 1967.
Sunday 8th May - The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Prelude: Pazienza (Reflections, 1942/45) – Whitlock
Communion: Fidelis (Four Extemporisations, 1932/33) – Whitlock
Postlude: Fanfare (Four Extemporisations) – Whitlock
Sunday 15th May - Pentecost
Prelude: Lantana (Plymouth Suite, 1937) – Whitlock
Communion: Salix (Plymouth Suite) – Whitlock
Postlude: Toccata (Plymouth Suite) – Whitlock
The suite gets its name from the fact that the Incorporated Association of Organists' Congress in 1937 took place in Plymouth. Whitlock and his wife attended.
Sunday 22nd May - Trinity Sunday
Prelude: Prelude in E flat (BWV 552) - Bach
Communion: Sonata no.3 (BWV 527, middle movement) - Bach
Postlude: Fugue in E flat (BWV 552, “St. Anne”) - Bach
The final piece of Part Three of Bach’s publication “Clavierübung” (Keyboard Practice) has a subject which resembles William Croft’s hymn tune “St. Anne”, hence the English nickname for this piece. It has Trinitarian symbolism on many levels: three flats in the key signature, three sections, the lengths of which are related to each other by a factor of three, three different time signatures related to each other by a factor of three, and three fugal subjects which combine perfectly with each other - three in one! This fugue has been described as probably the most perfect depiction of the Trinity in all of Western Art.