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A survey of the sacred choral-orchestral works of Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869–1941)

Martin C Cook, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In the closing years of the 19th Century, when Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry and Edward Elgar were at the height of their fame and influence in British musical society Henry Walford Davies emerged as one of the most promising talents of the day, receiving commissions from the provincial music festivals of Great Britain, which were a rite of passage for emerging composers. Between 1904 and 1929 Davies produced eleven sacred choral-orchestral works for these festivals and one further work, which were received favorably in their day but are now almost forgotten. There are five large multi movement works: The Temple, Everyman, Lift up your Hearts, Noble Numbers, Song of Saint Francis and six short works: Five Sayings of Jesus, Fantasy, Heavens Gate, Men and Angels, High Heaven's King, Christ in the Universe and Ode on Time. Davies also composed a substantial amount of chamber, orchestral, church, and children's music. Renewed interest in his music has resulted in some recent recordings, notably Everyman , his most successful cantata. This study provides a survey of these sacred choral-orchestral works: the background to them, their initial reception, their musical style and attributes. While some are similar in construction, the nature of each work is defined by a deep commitment to the text, which manifests itself through musical expression and innovation. Information is also provided about performing materials and options for performance. The neglect of Walford Davies' sacred choral-orchestral works is discussed in the final chapter. It may have been a change in musical taste or simply that the intensely religious and personal nature of the works were out of favor in the aftermath of war. What can be said for certain is that his work is full of originality and as Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote on one occasion "beauty of invention."

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Recommended Citation

Cook, Martin C, "A survey of the sacred choral-orchestral works of Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869–1941)" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3504190.