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Herbert Howells

English composer, organist and teacher Herbert Howells was born at Lydney in Gloucestershire on 17 October 1892. He studied with Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral, alongside Ivor Novello and the composer and poet Ivor Gurney, with whom Howells became friends.

Howells was at the first performance of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (Gloucester Cathedral, 1910), and this greatly inspired his own music.

Illness - he was diagnosed with Graves' disease and was the first person in the country to receive radium treatment - cut short his tenure as organist at Salisbury Cathedral, and he worked as an editor of Tudor choral repertoire at Westminster Cathedral. He followed Gustav Holst as director of music at St Paul's Girls' School, taught composition at the Royal College of Music from 1920, and, during World War II, was acting organist of St John's College Cambridge.

Howells is known especially for his choral music. Hymnus Paradisi for choir and orchestra was written after the early death of Howells' son, and there is much service music for the Anglican church. The motet Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing was written in memory of the assassinated John F Kennedy.

He is also known for two collections of clavichord music - Lambert's Clavichord and Howells' Clavichord, and there is much orchestral, chamber, piano and organ music, and even two pieces for brass band.

Howells died in London on 23 February 1983.

A selection of M&V articles about Herbert Howells

CD Spotlight. A Fantastic Collection - Little-known harpsichord gems, strongly recommended by Alice McVeigh. '... succeeds utterly, as does the immaculately sensitive [Penelope] Cave.'

Ensemble. The Treasured Crown - Roderic Dunnett reports in depth on last month's Three Choirs Festival at Gloucester

CD Spotlight. Sublime Beauty - Choral music by Herbert Howells, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... glorious choral textures ...'

CD Spotlight. Widely Spread - Christmas music from Caius College Choir, recommended by Keith Bramich. '... high-quality singing with lovely rounded tone ...'

Considerable Beauty - An organ recital by John Hosking, heard by Tony Westerman

CD Spotlight. Style and Imagination - Paul McCreesh's Christmas album, recommended by Keith Bramich. '... high-quality British Christmas music from the Gabrieli Consort ...'

Ensemble. Added Vibrancy - Mike Wheeler listens to a classy concert from the Sitwell Singers

CD Spotlight. Meltingly Beautiful - Christmas music from the Vasari Singers, unstintingly recommended by Howard Smith. '... exemplary radiant style and élan ...'

Ensemble. The Finest of Them All - The 2012 Hereford Three Choirs Festival, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett

CD Spotlight. Beautifully Apt - Choral music by Herbert Howells, heard by Robert Anderson. '... Howells at his finest.'

Ensemble. Powerfully Expressive - Holst, Howells, Finzi and Liszt from the Derwent Singers, reviewed by Mike Wheeler

DVD Spotlight. Dignity and Impudence - A recital on Exeter Cathedral's organ, enjoyed by Gerald Fenech. '... Millington on fine form ...'

Ensemble. Exciting Teamwork - Roderic Dunnett was in Worcester for the 2011 Three Choirs Festival

Ensemble. Sorcerers and Apprentices - Collaborative organ performances at Derby Cathedral by Peter Gould, Tom Corfield, Christopher Johns, Ben Bloor and Sachin Gunga delight Tony Westerman

Majesty, Moment and Control - Ben Bloor's concluding recital for Derby Cathedral's 2010 summer organ series impresses Tony Westerman

Highly Characterful - Tom Corfield plays Whitlock, Howells, Messiaen, Bach and Peeters, heard by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Mice in the Manger - A selection of Christmas music, enjoyed by George Balcombe. '... an amazing collection.'

Ensemble. Shade and Nuance - Chamber music by Julian Dawes, appreciated by Malcolm Miller

Record Box. A Rewarding Experience - Music from The Phoenix Chorale impresses Patric Standford

Ensemble. In Memory of Hickox - Vaughan Williams' 'Sancta Civitas', reviewed by Robert Hugill

Ensemble. A Fascinating Work - The first performance of Gabriel Jackson's Requiem, reviewed by Robert Hugill

Ensemble. Three Premières - Malcolm Miller applauds the latest concert of music by Julian Dawes

CD Spotlight. Exuberant performances - Howells Canticles from the Collegiate Singers, reviewed by Rex Harley. 'The balance of the choir is near perfect ...'

Second sight. Music with Wilfrid Mellers - The rough and the smooth

Record box. Cathedral setting - Howells in ecclesiastical mode, by Basil Ramsey

Record box - Drawing out. Herbert Howells on CD, considered by Basil Ramsey


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