Herbert Howells began to seriously compose music for the church in 1944, when he served as the choir director at the King's College in Cambridge. Howells was asked to compose a setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for performance in St. Paul's Cathedral. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for St. Paul's Cathedral for chorus (1950) was completed by Howells on December 26, while he was at home in London. The composition of this work was greatly influenced by the cathedral in which it was to be performed. Howells noted that St. Paul's had a "prolonged echo." The composer then decided to employ a slowly moving harmonic rhythm, so that no more than two subsequent harmonies would be heard together at any time. In any other less reverberant setting, this work would perhaps seem dull, but in St. Paul's each sound lingers for such a long period of time that an air of "levitation" is present. Howells was aware of the problem of acoustics in church music throughout his life, because of his familiarity with the Gloucester Cathedral, in which a sound will reverberate for around five seconds. He attempted to incorporate his knowledge of the acoustics of buildings and the dramatic effects that could be produced into his church music.
Description by Chris Boyes
- Nunc Dimittis
|1995||Sony Music Distribution||SK-66614|