Saturday, 21 April 2018

Reprimand of James Coleman, 30 July 1906

Having written about James Coleman's mysterious reprimand, I have been given a copy of the document which had been safely deposited in the Cathedral. It is a typed document, and is  transcribed here in full.

in the Chapter House, July 30 1906

I have summoned you before the Chapter to receive an official reprimand and I have written down what I have to say on behalf of the Canons and myself.

The Dean read the following -

I can recall no offence on the part of a Vicar, at least since that which led to the degradation and expulsion of the late sub-chanter, which has caused more distress to myself and the Canons than your conduct at Evensong on Saturday last and what led to it.

There was a foreshadowing of something wrong when before the beginning of the service you left the vestry in your cassock, and put on your surplice most carelessly, while the Cathedral Body were waiting; it was so unusual as to call for observation. Then during the anthem you knocked and pushed a large music book off your desk almost immediately behind a chorister who was singing a solo and might easily have been interrupted and disconcerted by the noise.

This circumstance led me to keep my eyes upon you till the close of the service, and what I saw, I felt, would make it necessary for me at once to ask for an explanation, but I saw that you left the choir when the hymn began and you did not return to the vestry till sometime after.

I asked the Canon in Residence, who sat near you, if he observed your irreverent behaviour, and be said that he had and that it as very marked and that he could not doubt that you were under the influence of drink.

I [then] found you outside the building and requested you to follow me to the deanery. I saw immediately that the Canon was right and after speaking of your behaviour I said you had been drinking. Now if you had admitted it, as it was a first offence, I should have been contented to deal with you privately and personally.

But what followed was so serious that official notice became necessary. In the first place you denied that you had been drinking, not only once but twice, though I begged you not to increase the offence by falsehood; and only when I told you that I had incontestable evidence from your breath as you passed me at the door, you confessed that you had met a friend and had been taking Brandy and soda, but that you had only taken two glasses, that you had been under a doctor for 3 weeks and supposed that being very weak it had affected you. You had forgotten that only 2 days before when I had asked you how you were you said, without hesitation, "OK! Quite well now, I am going to begin lawn tennis again".

All this was very unsatisfactory but what followed was almost worse. "Why," you asked, "do you single me out for drinking, when there are other vicars far worse than I am? I know that they are. I can prove it. I know one who has taken 8 brandies and soda though I have only taken 2! I am had up while they are left alone".

To try to exculpate yourself by bringing a secret charge against your brother vicars behind their backs shewed me yet more clearly in what state you were. You could only have done it under the influence of drink. I am thankful that it did not happen that you were put down for a solo; the result must have caused a scandal and with that large congregation, a "public scandal".

We have been unanimous in our wish to deal with you as leniently as we can consistently with our duty to the Cathedral Body and the necessity of your brother vicars knowing that you have been officially reprimanded. God grant that you may lay these words seriously to heart and be able to recover that good opinion which for the time you have forfeited.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

James Coleman (Lay Vicar 1900-1942) and The City Music Publishing Co., Lichfield

Included with the memories that George Greaves sent was a copy of an anthem by James Coleman, published in 1934, who George remembers being the Senior Lay Vicar. This small detail led to a little further research, and two strands to this post. Firstly, about James Coleman, and secondly about the anthem and its publisher.

James Coleman was born in West Bromwich in 1876 and came from Southwell to Lichfield as Lay Vicar in 1900, where he remained until Sunday 20 September 1942 when he died suddenly on his way to the Cathedral.

Beyond the record of his installation into the Lay Vicar's Stall belonging to the Prebend of Eccleshall on 13 July 1900, and a note in October 1919 that the absence of a third Bass Lay Vicar - or his deputy - meant that £14-11-0 should be paid to both Mr J Coleman and Mr H Parker to recompense them for the extra work they would have to have done, Coleman appears to have drawn little attention from the Cathedral authorities. This may be down to the story behind a note in the Chapter Act books from 28 September 1906 which records that "The Dean reported that he had been obliged to summon James Coleman, a Vicar Choral, before Chapter to receive a formal reprimand; the circumstances are embodied in a document contained in a sealed envelope deposited with the Muniments of the Chapter".

A colleague, Frederic Hodgson, describes Coleman's voice as a "real basso-cantante, rich and voluminous" and his singing as being "refined and polished", and outside Lichfield, he was well known and his name appears nearly monthly in The Musical Times, in round ups of local performances and in the listings of singers available for work. His advertisements are regularly more extensive than others, and quote glowing reviews of his performances from both national and regional newspapers. There are around a hundred of these in the archives of The Musical Times and are too extensive to reproduce here. However, The Musical Times did print his obituary in November 1942:
JAMES COLEMAN, a baritone well known in the Midlands, aged sixty-six. He was vicar-choral of Lichfield Cathedral from 1900 to his death. During the last war he conducted the Whittington Garrison Choral Society, and recently he directed the newly-formed Lichfield Operatic Society.
Alongside his performing, he also appears to have been a prolific composer as the final page of the copy of the anthem he gave to George Greaves shows. The copy of the anthem, a setting of the first two verses of Psalm 139, O Lord, thou hast searched me out, includes an inscription reading 'To Master Greaves, with the composer's best wishes, Oct. 10/34'. It is possible download a scanned copy of the original printed anthem, and a clearer typeset edition for the musically curious.

Moving away from Coleman himself, the last page of the scan mentions that the score was published by "Lichfield : The City Music Publishing Co.". My immediate (albeit cynical) assumption was that this was some manner of musical vanity press, but a little exploration online - courtesy of library catalogues and Google - suggests it was a more significant establishment, although I am told that Coleman was involved in music publishing... The searching is, in no way, exhaustive, so any further information about the company would be welcome.

The earliest reference to The City Music Publishing Co is a book by a W Kelly, entitled Blackpool, published in 1913. However, the earliest musical references are a copy of a song, My hope by Isabel Ashforde, published around 1915 and In a Sylvan Glade, a "caprice for the pianoforte" from 1916 by Samuel Bath; it is worth noting a female composer being represented in 1915. One Caroline F Boddy is also listed amongst their publications as the principal composer (alongside a H Brearley) of a song entitled The Happy Little House in 1918. A 1920 piano work, Floramyne by Gilbert Stacey, includes an address for the company at 7 Southampton Row, London, WC1.

There are various records of Coleman's work listed against their publications, but the most significant inclusions in the company's catalogue (especially in the Cathedral Music world) are various editions of the Durham Cathedral Chant Book by Philip Ames and Conrad Eden, published between 1939 and 1962. The City Music Publishing Co. does not, therefore, appear to have been solely for the promotion of local talent or restricted to the early part of the century.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Memories of Life as a Chorister 1934-1937 from George Greaves

It is always delightful to be contacted by individuals with their own memories of their time at Lichfield. Aged 95, George Greaves got in touch a few months ago to share his experiences as a chorister from the age of 11 in January 1934 to August 1937. His recollections are reproduced here as sent.

I was a boarder and shared a dormitory with five other boys in the care of Mr C R Bailey and his wife in a house in Dam Street opposite the West end of Minster Pool; Mr Bailey was the only teacher. The private choir school was also in Dam Street, behind the boarding house, and consisted of a classroom on the ground floor, a playroom on the first floor, and a recreation area outside. There were approximately 24 day boys, but the boarders were the backbone of the choir; I became head boy and No. 1 Cantoris.

We sang at services each morning and afternoon on weekdays, apart from Tuesday afternoon, with occasional exceptions for Feast Days and Festivals. There were full choral services on Saturday and Sunday. The three hours' worship on Good Friday was shared between the boys.

Of the 30 or so choir school boys, weekday services were only attended by six on each side, Decani and Cantoris, along with three Lay Vicars of each part; Mr James Coleman was the Senior Lay Vicar during my time. The choir boys were selected by region-wide voice trials which were open to all.

Bank Holiday services were especially well attended, and the congregations were treated to show pieces anthems from oratorios including Messiah and Israel in Egypt.

On weekdays, purple cassocks were worn, and red cassocks were worn on Sundays and Feast Days.

The choir was regarded as one of the country's best, and broadcast on the National Service in February 1934.

Practices were held most days for the boys, and for the whole choir on Fridays. Thursday Evensongs were unaccompanied, with notes being given on a small harmonium.

The Precentor was Canon Moncrief, assisted by Canon Hardy, the subchanter, 'the voice'. The Organist and Choirmaster was Ambrose Porter, FRCO, who lived in Darwin's old house on the border of the Close.

The boys' school day from was 8.00am until 5.00pm with a half day off on both Tuesday and Saturday.

Boys' practices were held in the Song School in the North-West corner of the Close. Although there was the "Cottage" organ there, a piano was used to accompany the rehearsals. The "Cottage" organ was a constant source of fun for the boys, and annoyance to Mr Lott (one of the visiting organists) because of the interchangeable pipes. The other visiting organists included Mr Morgan, a fiery Welshman, and Mr Pettigrew, who was later heard of in the army in Africa.

When I first started, the Bishop was the Rt Rev Kempthorne who was succeeded by Bishop Barnes. The Bishop selected two of the choristers to hold his bejewelled robe, for which they were given a shilling; I was lucky enough to be chosen on a couple of occasions.

There were small Christmas parties for the boarders (as we never went home at Christmas, unlike the day boys), and these were given by the Precentor, Subchanter and others. Canon Hardy gave us a rhyme about someone putting up shutters and sitting in the shop, which he would recite at breakneck speed with us all waiting for him to get the vowels wrong.

Most of the choristers were the exact age to be called up - in my case, to volunteer for service - in the Second World War, soon after leaving. I served in the Royal Navy from August 1941 to August 1946.

I do remember a memorial board in the classroom at school with the names of the choristers who had served in World War One, with Maltese crosses beside the names of those who had did.

The photograph is of me in January 1934, when I was aged 11, when I started in the choir. I got in by the skin of my teeth, as I was born in February 1922 and had I been 12 years old they would not have taken me!

George Greaves, aged 11 in 1934 (Chorister, 1934-1937)
George Greaves, aged 11 in 1934 (Chorister, 1934-1937)

Sunday, 4 March 2018

A thirteenth century Alleluya for Chad rediscovered

The cover page of MS Rawl. D. 1225
Earlier this year, our organ scholar, Maks Adach, discovered a fragment of plainsong in the Bodleian Library in Oxford which would have been sung in the Lichfield Diocese before the Reformation. He has transcribed it and created a modern performing edition which was liturgically heard for the first time in five centuries on St Chad's Day (2 March), 2018.

His editorial introduction is reproduced below, and there is a link to download the new edition and to hear the performance recorded during the St Chad's Day Eucharist.

The subject of this critical edition is a fragment of plainsong found in the Bodleian Library. It is one of several musical items (the work of numerous scribes) found in MS. Rawl. D. 1225, a large codex containing the Martyrology of Usard. The MS is a medium-sized codex measuring 245x175mm and is 134 folios in length. Judging from the handwriting style, the MS was written in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It belonged to St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury, as it contains an inventory of that church’s feretory. This included the right arm of Chad, the hair-shirt of Thomas Canteloupe, and the spear that pierced Christ’s side. The Crown of Thorns is listed as missing. The Martyrology’s calendar contains the obiits of Parish benefactors and rectors. The text itself contains many additions in the margins. Among these is a substantial entry for Chad (f.35v) and one for the Dedication of Lichfield Cathedral (f.16v). The presence of these confirms that the MS was written for use in the Diocese of Lichfield.

Marginalia denoting the Dedication
Feast of Lichfield Cathedral in the MS
The plainsong fragment in question is an Alleluia Proper in honour of Chad. It is found with other items in the endleaves of the MS. It is one of three items penned by the same scribe in black, thirteenth-century square notation on red staves. The other items are all either in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary or St Edward the Confessor. Aside from one two-part, polyphonic antiphon (f.132v), the musical items are all examples of monophonic, liturgical chant. They were almost certainly intended for use at masses at St Chad’s, Shrewsbury and are, due to the destruction of the historic collection of the Lichfield Cathedral Library in the Civil War, rare examples of the plainsong and early polyphony used in the Diocese during the pre-Reformation era.

A copy of the Alleluya (which includes a reproduction of the original manuscript) can be downloaded here, and the performance recorded on St Chad's Day 2018 can be heard here.

If you want use the edition in any way, please do contact Maks; although he is keen for it to be used more widely, it constitutes a part of a larger research project concerned with the plainsong fragments in the manuscript.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Roland James Cook: Lay Vicar 1923-1967

Roland Cook was one of many Lay Vicars to have been part of the Cathedral's choral foundation. However, his death - fifty years ago today - on 16 February, 1968, aged 73, is particularly significant as it marked the death of the last member of the Corporation of the Vicars Choral to hold freehold office. This meant that once he had been appointed, he was entitled the income from the lands owned by the Corporation of Vicars Choral until his death, even after his retirement on 12 January 1967 following serving at Lichfield for 44 years.

There is a noticeboard in the Lay Vicars' vestry today which commemorates him:
The inscription reads,
'Placed here in 1969 to commemorate the former corporation of the
Vicars Choral, following the death of Roland James Cook, the last member
to hold freehold office under statutes dating from the 13th century'.
(with apologies for the poor photograph)

Before coming to Lichfield, Cook had been at Canterbury Cathedral and during his 44 years at Lichfield, he had a distinguished career as a singer. His son has been in touch and sent a photograph of his father as young man:

and a photograph from 1934 in which Cook is a part of a group of BBC Midland Singers in a studio in Birmingham:

His son comments that "the only others in the picture that I know are the musical director Edgar Morgan, a dapper man on the right hand side and the small lady in front of Dad, Margery Westbury as in Paul Temple. Edgar Morgan lived in Handsworth and was a deputy organist at the Cathedral, but I knew him as the music teacher at the Grammar School who only came in on Mondays and Fridays".

If you can offer any information about any of the other singers in this photograph, please get in touch!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Lay Vicar Appointment in 1977

This weekend marks Michael Guest's final weekend in the choir after just over 40 years. In this time, he has served under four Bishops, five Deans, six Precentors, six Directors of Music, six Organists, and seen 17 basses, 13 tenors, 24 altos (one of whom, twice) and over 200 Choristers come and go.

This is a copy of the advertisement to which he responded, and the letter from the Dean, George Holderness, offering him the post. He duly started in September 1977 and was officially installed into the Lay Vicar's stall of Longdon on St Lucy's Day, 13 December, 1977.

The text of the advertisement from May 1977 reads:
There are vacancies for a TENOR and a BASS in the Cathedral Choir. All duties outside normal office hours. Flexible holiday system. Small historic house available at moderate rent. 
For details and application form apply: The Secretary to the Dean and Chapter, 14 The Close, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS13 7LD.

The text of the letter, dated 2 June 1977, reads:
Dear Mr. Guest, 
On behalf of the Dean and Chapter I have pleasure in writing to offer you the post of Tenor Lay Vicar in Lichfield Cathedral Choir. The conditions are as laid out in the enclosed sheet and the post would commence on 1st September, 1977, though the first sung services commence on Sunday, 11th September. 
We would also be happy to offer you the tenancy of No. 10 Vicars' Close (which I believe you have already seen) at an annual rental of £208 exclusive of rates. 
I should be grateful if you would let me know as soon as possible whether you are able to accept this offer. We very much hope that you will be able to do so. 
Yours sincerely,
+George Holderness
Dean of Lichfield

Saturday, 9 September 2017

BBC Songs of Praise with the Northern Division of the Choir Schools Association (9 September 1990)

Recorded in summer 1990 and broadcast at the start of the new academic year, this edition of Songs of Praise featured cathedral choirs from the Northern Division of the Choir Schools Association. Filmed in Lichfield Cathedral, it also marked the first public engagement of the Patron of the CSA, HRH The Duchess of Kent.

Cathedrals which I know are represented alongside Lichfield include Lincoln, Liverpool, Edinburgh, York and Wakefield, but please let me know if there are others so I can update this list.

The choir booklet reveals that on the day itself just an hour and a quarter (from 11.00am until 12.15pm) was allowed for the television rehearsal, with the recording starting at 1.45pm and finishing at 6.00pm.

While the original video that we were given had clearly been watched, we are grateful to the Archive of Recorded Church Music which has provided a link to a better quality copy in their archives.