Herbert Norman Howells

(1892-1983)

Herbert Norman Howells (1892-1983)

Herbert Howells was an English composer, born in Lydney in Gloucestershire. He gained his musical background in the traditions of the Church of England, as both a chorister and an organist, and it is in this vein that the majority of his works were written. He studied under Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral and was deeply influenced by the writing of Vaughan Williams and the much earlier Tudor school of composition. Much of his music draws on this Renaissance heritage, reworking it in new and original ways.

His best-known and best-loved works are sacred choral compositions, especially the Requiem and the profoundly moving elegy for John F Kennedy Take him, Earth, for Cherishing. The latter is imbued with a deep personal secondary meaning; Howells himself lost his son Michael to polio at the age of nine, and the tragedy coloured much of his output for the following decades.

Other popular works by Howells are the set of Four Anthems that he wrote during World War II (including the famous Like as the Hart and the yearning O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem), and his numerous sets of Evening Canticles are perennial favourites with church musicians.


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