A new piece of sacred music by Robert Howard has its premiere at Prescot Parish Church this Sunday, 1 November.
God So Loved the World, a new setting of words from John Stainer’s cantata The Crucifixion, was composed earlier in the year, with a view to a premiere on Good Friday. With church worship and live music suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the performance was postponed indefinitely.
Now, for the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, tenor David Kernick will sing the piece, with the composer at the piano, at the close of Sunday 1 November’s Eucharist at Prescot Parish Church.
The service starts at 10am, and all are welcome. You are asked to book ahead and observe social distancing and other measures while inside. All details are online at prescotparish.org.uk.
Robert’s compositions continue to find a way of being heard, even in these unusual times.
The Liverpool Cathedral-based community choir Liverpool64 sang the moving 2017 anthem Alleluia in early April. Singers rehearsed together online and recorded their individual performances at home, before director Stephen Mannings edited the final piece – a great technological accomplishment as well as a musical one.
The recording was used again by Prescot Parish Church for their Easter Day service, published to both Facebook and their website, prescotparish.org.uk.
Tenor David Kernick had planned to give the premiere Robert’s God So Loved the World on Good Friday, during the Second Hour at Prescot Parish Church. In it Robert follows in the footsteps of other composers – most famously John Stainer, who used the same biblical text (John 3.16-17) in his 1887 oratorio The Crucifixion. Circumstances delayed the performance, but David nevertheless was able to introduce Prescot Parish Church Choir to the beautiful new setting as part of a an online tutorial.
Robert Howard’s music is now available to download via Sheet Music Plus, ‘the world’s largest sheet music selection.’ Fourteen choral and piano solo works are already in the collection, and more are being added regularly.
Visit sheetmusicplus.com to browse compositions, preview scores, listen to audio excerpts and purchase sheet music.
Successful Festive Season
Advent and Christmas saw performances of Robert’s compositions, with Prescot Parish Church Choir singing his 2002 carol ‘A Babe Is Born’ on four occasions. Of these, the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert, with an audience of almost 500, is most notable; the event, which Robert helped organise in his capacity as artistic director of the Prescot Festival, raised more than £1,400 for local causes.
Robert also enjoyed several conducting engagements over the festive season, with Liverpool Mozart Orchestra, South Liverpool Orchestra, Phoenix Concert Orchestra, Prescot Parish Church Choir and the three orchestras of St Edward’s College. The LMO concert was a particular highlight, with BBC Radio Merseyside star Roger Phillips appearing to narrate Prokofiev’s much-loved children’s work Peter and the Wolf.
Piano Premiere 6 March
Stephen Mannings will give the first performance of Robert’s 2009 piano piece Rotations on Friday 6 March at Prescot Parish Church. The concert, which starts at 7pm, also features the Gilbert Scott Singers – Liverpool Cathedral’s official youth choir – and Danielle Louise Thomas, the mezzo-soprano known as the ‘Voice of Liverpool’ (pictured). Danielle will sing the solo part in a performance of the beautifully meditative 2017 choral work Alleluia. Visit prescotfestival.co.uk for more details of the concert, including ticket information.
Coming soon: News of other upcoming performances by Prescot Parish Church Choir, South Liverpool Orchestra, Liverpool Cathedral outreach choirs and the Prescot Festival Chorus.
Robert Howard’s latest choral composition will have its premiere in Prescot in October 2019.
‘Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honour’ is a setting for SATB choir and organ (or piano) of a text by Charles Wesley, and its theme makes it an ideal anthem for Harvest Festival, although it suits many occasions in the Church year. It is an exuberant, celebratory hymn, march-like, with three verses and a coda.
The choir of Prescot Parish Church will sing it during Sung Eucharist at 10am on Sunday 6 October (St Mary’s, Church Street, L34 1LA), with Tim Hall on the organ and David Kernick conducting. Robert has dedicated it to the Reverend Kimberley Mannings, the Curate of Prescot, who celebrates her 30th birthday in December.
October also sees one of Rob’s sacred vocal works sung by an Oxbridge choir for the first time. The chapel choirs of Cambridge and Oxford universities play a vital role in the history of church music and the English choral tradition, making this performance a particular honour. Selwyn College Chapel Choir, under music director Sarah MacDonald, will sing ‘Jubilate Deo’ (SATB choir and organ/piano) at Choral Evensong on Tuesday 15 October (6.30pm, Selwyn College Chapel, Grange Road, CB3 9DQ). The work, after Psalm 100, was composed for the occasion of Rob’s own wedding to Laura in 2017.
In other news, the hymn ‘Bread of the World’ had its second performance on 27 September at Prescot Parish Church, during a concert celebrating Tim Hall’s 40th anniversary as Parish Organist. Listen below (with thanks to Alan Humphreys for the audio recording). David Kernick, to whose late mother, Jacquie (d. 26 March 2019), the piece is dedicated, conducted the choir of St Mary’s.
Among other vocal and instrumental items on the programme were three of Rob’s own miniatures, with the composer at the piano, as well as his 2018 setting of ‘For Mary, Mother of Our Lord,’ sung by soprano Elizabeth Lyon, again with Rob accompanying on piano.
Update (23 October 2019): The new anthem ‘Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honour’ (see above) will have its second performance on All Saints’ Sunday, during the 10am Eucharist at St Mary’s Prescot, again with David Kernick conducting Prescot Parish Church Choir, accompanied by Tim Hall on the organ.
This year’s Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts broke records, with an unprecedented 1,700 through the doors of Prescot Parish Church and other venues.
The 10-day cultural celebration took place between Friday 21 and Sunday 30 June, and this year’s was the 15th since Rob founded it in 2005. Highlights included appearances by Dr Jazz & the Cheshire Cats, the Band & Drums of the Cheshire Constabulary and the world-renowned Liverpool Cathedral Choir. Maghull Wind Orchestra were joined by soprano Danielle Louise Thomas – the ‘Voice of Liverpool’ – for the Proms-style finale, which attracted an audience of 325, an increase of 100 on last year.
Two of Rob’s own compositions were performed during this year’s festival, with Alleluia (2018) opening this year’s ‘Come & Sing’ concert. The following day, Metropolitan Cathedral organist Richard Lea played the 2014 piece Meditation, dedicated to Lea and fellow organist Ian Tracey.
Elsewhere over the summer, Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir sang Robert’s Ave verum corpus, while the Ormskirk Music Society Orchestra played the stirring 2015 work Cortege. In May, Rob was soloist in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, with the South Liverpool Orchestra.
Trinity Sunday, on 16 June, was the occasion of a premiere – Bread of the World, dedicated to Jacquie Kernick, who passed away on 26 March. The meditative hymn was sung by the choir during Eucharist at Prescot Parish Church.
Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing Bread of the World again on at Parish Musicians in Concert later this month. Soprano Elizabeth Lyon will sing the solo voice version of For Mary, Mother of Our Lord (2018), accompanied by Stephen Mannings on piano, and the composer will play his own piano miniatures: Pastoral Intermezzo No. 2 (1994), The Mystery of the Trinity (1998) and Mother and Child (2000). All four compositions are premieres.
Parish Musicians in Concert takes place at Prescot Parish Church on Friday 27 September, at 7pm. Tim Hall, celebrating his 40th anniversary as Parish Organist, is joined by Prescot Parish Church Choir for 75 minutes of vocal and instrumental music, followed by cake and wine. Tickets are £5 on the door.
Looking even further ahead, Rob will conduct the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra for the first time on Sunday 8 December at 2.30pm in the Capstone Theatre at Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus (Shaw Street, Liverpool). The concert of ‘Festive Favourites’ features BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips narrating Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
April saw a double premiere, when Robert Howard’s new setting of the Good Friday Reproaches (I Gave You Love) was sung by the choirs of both St Mary’s, Prescot, and All Hallows’, Allerton, under the composer and Stephen Davies, respectively.
At Prescot, on the same day, Rob also conducted his own Ave verum corpus (2016).
Three choirs – Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir, Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir and the newly established Liverpool64 – assembled to sing Rob’s Jubilate Deo (2016) in the cathedral on Saturday 11 May. Stephen Mannings conducted, with a splendid accompaniment on organ, piano and timpani, as part of the ‘All Ages Sing!’ concert.
More performances are ahead for Rob’s compositions, both old and new.
On Sunday 2 June, Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing the 2017 anthem Alleluia during their morning Eucharist at 10am, with David Kernick conducting.
On Wednesday 5 June, Stephen Mannings conducts Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir in Ave verum corpus during Evensong in the Lady Chapel of the cathedral (5.30pm).
On 16 June, Trinity Sunday, Prescot Parish Church Choir sing a new hymn, Bread of the World, during Holy Communion at the 10am Sung Eucharist, again under David Kernick.
On Saturday 22 June, Alleluia features in the Prescot Festival ‘Come & Sing’ concert at Prescot Parish Church, alongside Vivaldi’s Gloria, under conductor James Luxton, of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. All SATB singers are welcome to participate, and the guests for the second half of the evening are Liverpool Cathedral Choir.
Then, on Saturday 29 June at 7.30pm in St John the Baptist Church in Burscough (School Lane, L40 4AE), Jim Cooke directs the Ormskirk Music Society Orchestra in a performance of Rob’s stirring 2015 work Cortege. Tickets are £10 and £5.
Looking even further ahead, Bread of the World and other Howard compositions will be on the programme on Friday 27 September, at 7.30pm, at Parish Musicians in Concert. This church fundraiser at Prescot Parish Church features organist Tim Hall and guest musicians, including Robert and other members of Prescot Parish Church Choir.
Robert has once again added to Prescot Parish Church Choir’s repertoire with a composition of his own, ‘I Gave You Love,’ which will be sung during the Final Hour Liturgy (2pm) this Friday, 19 April, at St Mary’s Prescot. It is scored for SATB choir and congregation.
The music, a setting of the traditional Good Friday ‘Reproaches,’ is based on themes from Robert’s earlier motet ‘For Mary, Mother of Our Lord,’ written in 2018 for the same choir. It will dovetail with the anthem ‘Ave verum corpus’ (choir only, 2016). Organist Tim Hall is to accompany both.
Three performances of Robert’s ‘Jubilate Deo’ (2016) at Liverpool Cathedral in January and March were well-received. The last of these, by Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir, took place during the first Liverpool Cathedral Choral Festival Piano Competition on 21 March, of which Robert was a judge. A fourth performance in this majestic venue is on 11 May as part of the cathedral’s Spring Concert, this time with a massed choir comprising Liverpool 64 Community Choir, Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir and Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir.
And finally, the 2015 orchestral work ‘Cortege’ is programmed by the Ormskirk Music Society for 29 June. More details on this, as well as Howard performances at the 15th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts (21-30 June), will follow soon.
November 2018 sees several performances of Robert Howard’s music in Merseyside.
On Friday 16 November, the composer will give the premiere of his own piano miniatures, Intrada (1995) and Prelude in C (1992), at a private engagement at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, Wales. This follows successful premieres of other earlier works at Prescot Parish Church in September: Piano miniatures Pastoral Intermezzo and Prelude in F (both 1993), and Pierrot (1992), for solo bassoon. The occasion will also feature a first performance of Robert’s setting of the carol Once in Royal David’s City, with Laura Howard (alto) and David Kernick (tenor).
On Saturday 17 November, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra play his 2015 Cortège, in a Remembrance programme also featuring pieces by Butterworth, Ravel, Beethoven and Vaughan Williams. The concert starts at 7.30pm at the Capstone Theatre (Liverpool Hope University, Shaw Street, Liverpool, L6 1HP), and tickets are £15 (senior citizens £13.50, 17+ in full-time education £5, u16s free). See www.livemozart.com for more information and to buy tickets.
And finally, Stephen Mannings will conduct Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir in Robert Howard’s Magnificat & Nunc dimittis at Evensong on Saturday 24 November at 3pm in Liverpool Cathedral. Although Robert’s choral works have been heard at the neighbouring Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, this marks the first performance of a Howard composition at the Anglican Cathedral. All are welcome to this service of worship (free entry).
Two of Robert’s choral compositions featured in this year’s Prescot Festival, with the 2016 setting of the Ave verum corpus receiving a performance by a massed choir of an unprecedented 120 singers from across the North West on 16 June. (Pictured. Photo: Alan Humphreys)
Alleluia, written in memory of Gerald Dyson in 2017, was the anthem for Festival Choral Evensong, closing the 10-day event on Sunday 24 June. Gerald was a long-time member of Prescot Parish Church Choir, who sang the piece accompanied by parish organist Tim Hall.
The festival, which Rob founded in 2005 and continues to direct, was a great success, welcoming over 1,600 people to a series of concerts and arts events in venues throughout Prescot and Whiston.
Performances & Premieres Ahead
More performances of Robert’s works are lined up for later this year. His new anthem For Mary, Mother of Our Lord will receive its first performance on Sunday 9 September in Prescot Parish Church, during the 10.30am Eucharist. It has been composed especially for the occasion of the 2018 Patronal Festival and dedicated to the church and to the composer’s own mother, Dorothy Howard.
The trebles of Prescot Parish Church Choir sing Jubilate Deo at Parish Musicians in Concert on Friday 21 September at 7pm in Prescot Parish Church. The concert will also see premieres of three early works by Robert Howard: piano miniatures Pastoral Intermezzo and Prelude in F (both 1993), and Pierrot (1992), for solo bassoon; each piece will be played by the composer himself. For just £5 on the door (u16s free with a paying adult), audiences will enjoy about 75 minutes of music from organist Tim Hall and soloists, followed by complimentary cake and wine.
On 6 October St Helens Choral Society will perform three of Rob’s motets – Ave Verum Corpus, Alleluia and Jubilate Deo. The concert, entitled ‘O Radiant Dawn – A Celebration of 20th & 21st Century Choral Music’ and conducted by Stephen Newlove, will take place at St Thomas’s Church in St Helens (Peter Street, WA10 2EB – please note the change of venue from that advertised earlier) at 7.30pm. Call 01695 625500 for ticket reservations or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is £10, or £1 for students.
Then on 17 November, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra will feature Robert’s 2015 work Cortege as part of a WWI remembrance concert in Liverpool’s Capstone Theatre.