This lovely and touching tune is one of a very few short works by this composer that continue to be played and thus keep his name alive as a composer. It is a fine enough piece that it leads the listener to wonder if the neglect of his larger-scale music is justifiable.
Henry Walford Davies (1869 - 1941) is from Welsh stock, though he was born in the English county of Shropshire, on the Welsh border. He composed two symphonies, other orchestral music, a fair amount of chamber music, and a large number of choral and vocal works of various sizes. Even during his life he saw that he was gaining very few performances, and although he did not give up composing, he had to become reconciled to the fact that his main occupation was in the field of university music teaching and studies, and, beginning, in 1926, with popularizing classical music on his well-received BBC radio program Music and the Ordinary Listener and in his 1935 book The Pursuit of Music.
But as a composer he is represented only by a few short works including some church anthems (the most famous is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men), the World War I favorite R.A.F. March Past, and this Solemn Melody.
Solemn Melody first appeared in 1908 in a version for organ and strings. Davies adapted it for full orchestra later. It is in a simple song form. The tune is rich, warm, and flowing, and avoids either a feeling of British pomp or a sense of religiosity.