The English composer Herbert Norman Howells was born 125 years ago in Lydney, Gloucestershire on 17 October 1892. He gained his early musical education as a chorister and organist before moving to London, in 1912, to study at the Royal College of Music, where his teachers included Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry among others.
Howells will be well-known to choristers up and down the country. An early popular and critical success was his Hymnus Paradisi written for the Three Choirs Festival in 1950. The motet Take him, earth, for cherishing written in memory of John F Kennedy ranks among the finest works of English sacred music. His final final large-scale choral work was the Stabat Mater first performed in 1965. One of his last works to appear in his lifetime was the Requiem which was written in the early 1930s but only edited for performance from his manuscripts in 1980 and published the following year. It is inextricably linked to untimely youthful death but is nonetheless a beautiful and searingly moving work.
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Howells then this award-winning CD by the mixed choir at Trinity College Cambridge, directed by Stephen Layton is well worth a listen.