Remembering Sir David Willcocks

Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015)
Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015)

 

British choral conductor, organist and composer Sir David Willcocks passed away yesterday. He was 95. Between 1957 and 1974, Willcocks directed the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. His numerous recordings with that ensemble showcase its distinct sound, which relies on the lightness and purity of boy sopranos. Between 1974 and 1984, Willcocks served as administrative director of the Royal College of Music in London. As a young man, he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in the Battle of Normandy during the Second World War.

Here is Sir David Willcocks’ 1963 recording of Handel’s Coronation Anthems with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Based on texts from the King James Bible, these anthems were first performed for the coronation of George II at Westminster Abbey on October 11, 1727. It’s hard to imagine any music more celebratory, regal, or majestic.

  1. Zadok the Priest (HWV 258) 0:00
  2. My Heart is Inditing (HWV 261) 5:52
  3. Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened (HWV 259) 18:38
  4. The King Shall Rejoice (HWV 260) 28:00

  • Find this recording at iTunes.
  • Find Sir David Willcocks’ recordings at iTunes, Amazon.
  • Hear Willcocks’ arrangement of Angelus ad Virginem (English, 14th century).

Change Ringing in England

Yesterday’s post featured a sample of church bells from across continental Europe. In many cases, these bells have been ringing out for centuries and are part of the ambiance of the city. In England’s “green and pleasant land” of orderly fields, hedge rows and quaint cathedral towns it isn’t surprising that a structured, rule-oriented style of bell ringing developed.

Change ringing, a series of mathematical patterns of tuned bells, was developed in the 17th century. Learn about how chain ringing is done here. Here is an additional clip about the mathematics of bell ringing.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Change Ringing Up Close[/typography]

Here is an example of change ringing from Liverpool. You can hear the bells pealing in a scale and then moving into a variety of patterns. The timing and precision required is impressive:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Westminster Abbey[/typography]

Here is what the bells and organ sounded like at Westminster Abbey on the day of the Royal Wedding in 2011:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]St. Paul’s Cathedral[/typography]

Here are the bells of Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral: