New Vocal Work Has Premiere 1 November

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.

News from the Lockdown

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.

Scores from Robert’s vast catalogue of compositions are still being added to Sheet Music Plus. Musicians finding the coronavirus restrictions a struggle may enjoy downloading and learning one of the dozens of instrumental solos, piano pieces, and chamber and choral works now available.

June Performances Coming Up

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.

The following day, 23 June, sees Robert’s 2014 organ piece Meditation performed at the festival as part of a recital by Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral organist Richard Lea. Tickets are just £5, including wine & nibbles, and under-16s are free with a paying adult.

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.

Howard Premiere: ‘I Gave You Love’ (Good Friday Reproaches)

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.

Howard Compositions to Feature in Prescot Festival

Two of Robert Howard’s choral compositions will feature on the programme of this year’s Prescot Festival, of which he is founder and director.

In a concert commemorating 100 years since the end of World War One, the Prescot Festival Chorus will sing Robert’s haunting setting of Ave verum corpus. Either side will be two classic works by Gabriel Fauré, Cantique de Jean Racine and Requiem. In excess of 115 singers are expected to come from across the North West to join the chorus for the concert, which takes place at 7pm on Saturday 16 June at Prescot Parish Church.

In preparation for the occasion, Prescot Parish Church Choir, for whom Ave verum corpus was originally written, sang the piece during the Eucharist on Sunday 13 May. Later the same week, they led the way in singing Robert’s 2017 anthem Alleluia at an RSCM ‘Sing & Sup’ workshop/rehearsal at the Church of St Nicholas, Sutton, under the baton of Dr Ian Sharp.

Prescot Parish Church Choir will then sing the meditative Alleluia as the anthem on Sunday 24 June, at a service of Choral Evensong marking the close of the 2018 Prescot Festival. Canticles are by Richard Shephard (his Song of Mary and Song of Simeon in place of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, respectively). All are welcome to Prescot Parish Church at 6pm. The service is followed by the Proms-style Festival Finale, featuring the Maghull Wind Orchestra.

As well as Ave verum corpus and Alleluia, two more of Robert’s pieces received performances in May 2018. The composer himself played The Clown (1991) and Folk Lament (1994), both early works for solo bassoon, as part of the South Liverpool Orchestra’s concert at St James’s Woolton on 15 May.

New Solo Arrangement to Premiere Good Friday

A new arrangement of Robert Howard’s ‘Ave verum corpus’ is to be performed on Good Friday, 14 April 2017, at Prescot Parish Church.

The work was composed for SATB choir and first sung in its full choral version on Good Friday 2016, by Prescot Parish Church Choir.  Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King Choir later sang it during Mass at the cathedral with St Edward’s College.

Tenor David Kernick will sing the new solo voice arrangement at 1pm on Friday, with Tim Hall at the organ.

All are welcome to attend some or all of the services, which begin at 12 noon, 1pm (with vocal quartet items) and 2pm (with Prescot Parish Church Choir). The address is Church Street, Prescot, L34 1LA.

12th Prescot Festival to Showcase Robert A Howard Compositions

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The final night of upcoming Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts will feature two works by the festival’s Founder and Artistic Director, Dr Robert Howard.

Opening on Friday 17 June, the 10-day programme ends on Sunday 26 June with Choral Evensong followed by a Regal Festival Finale.

At Festival Choral Evensong (6pm, Prescot Parish Church), the parish’s own choir, with organist Tim Hall, will perform a new sacred piece, Jubilate Deo, that Robert has composed especially for the occasion.

Written with flexibility, simplicity and singability for younger choristers in mind, the anthem is something of a companion piece to Ave Verum Corpus, written for the choir to premiere on Good Friday, earlier this year. It is dedicated to the Reverend Captain Peter Cowley.

See score excerpts and hear an electronic recording here.

Then, in the finale at 7.30pm, Rob will conduct the South Liverpool Orchestra in a Proms-style programme that includes music by such luminaries of British music as Walton and Elgar.

Among these will be Robert’s four-movement Festival Suite. In form and style, it echoes both Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony and Malcolm Arnold’s dance suites inspired by the various nations making up the British Isles, and it is dedicated to the latter composer in honour of his passing in 2006.

The suite uses material Robert wrote in his youth and later revised or orchestrated, and it was first compiled for and performed by the Knowsley Youth Orchestra, under Simon Gay, in their 2006-2007 season, first at the Conference of British Youth Orchestras, then at the Kirkby Civic Suite, and finally at the third Prescot Festival.

Its movements are:

I) Procession (1995)
II)  Dance (1994)
III) Folksong (1993)
IV) Like Clockwork (2003), an homage to Prescot’s clock-making heritage originally commissioned for the KYO

The 12th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts runs from Friday 17 to Sunday 26 June, and full programme information is online at www.prescotfestival.co.uk.

New Choral Work: Ave verum corpus

[Update: The recording of the premiere is now available to listen to online.]

Robert Howard has composed a new setting of Ave verum corpus, to be sung by Prescot Parish Church Choir, with Tim Hall accompanying on the organ, on Good Friday 2016.

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The composer wrote the music to the traditional Latin text with simplicity and singability in mind, especially for the younger members of the choir, which has recently had an intake of six eight- and nine-year-olds.

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It is structured in two parts, the second of which repeats the first (musically) with some variations. The singing fades as the opening lines – translating as ‘Hail the true body’ – return, mirroring the dying of Christ on the cross.

All are welcome to hear the first performance at the Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Prescot, L34 1LA, at 2pm on Friday 25 March 2016.

Click the thumbnail to view page 1 of the choral score.