The Glory of the Temple Church Choir
Directed by George Thalben-Ball
Recorded 1927 - 1950
The Glory of the Temple Church - Volume Two
A Forward by Denis Barthel, Head Boy 1931-33
The success of Amphion's first Temple Church CD has prompted the production of this disc, completing the recorded history of the choir and its soloists in the pre-war period. It was also thought of interest to include some of the recordings of The Templars' Male Voice Choir, all of whom were present or ex-choristers of the Temple Church.
When Ernest Lough made his wonderful recording of Hear my Prayer in 1927, it was the very first time that a mobile recording van had been used by H.M.V. This was also the case when I made my recordings from 1930 to 1932. At that time records were made on wax masters which, when used in production, wore out. Because of this the engineers necessarily had to make several masters, and the sessions, with a short break, lasted some hours just to record enough for both sides of a 78 r.p.m. record.
For each recording session, I stood in the front row of the choir stalls on Cantoris side, lighted by a single lamp; Mr. Ball played from the organ loft behind me, which was also lit. The single microphone was positioned immediately in front of me. Otherwise the church was in complete darkness and totally silent, which gave me a very strange feeling.
Before Ernest Lough there had undoubtedly been many fine Temple soloists ever since 1842 when the choir was established, but sadly we have no means of hearing and judging these lost voices.
John Calvert was the first choirmaster before E.J. Hopkins was appointed in 1843. He no doubt engaged carefully the original six boys to sing with the six professional men. The two principal boys were paid £15 p.a. and four juniors £10. William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915) was eleven years old and had been a chorister at St. Pauls where he had sung at the funeral of Thomas Attwood on 31st March 1838. At Temple he conducted a Temple Choral Club which consisted of his fellow choristers who were "players upon instruments." As an alto he sang in 1847 at the first performance of Elijah at Exeter Hall conducted by Mendelssohn who asked his name and wrote it upon his own visiting card, giving it to the singer. Cummings became organist of Waltham Abbey at the age of sixteen and returned to the Temple Church to sing tenor from 1853-59. In 1896 he was appointed Principal of the Guildhall School of Music.
On 12th June 1843 many of the nobility attended morning service at the Temple where Jeremiah Clarke's anthem How long wilt Thou forget me, 0 Lord was sung, the treble solo by John Lloyd. Lloyd later sang cantoris bass at the Temple (1852-68).
Not many of the names of the early boy choristers are known until we come to a book of Agreements of Entry kept by Hopkins from 1870, but some can be traced from other sources. Aynsley Cook (b.1835) was the grandfather of Eugene Goossens and joined the choir soon after Hopkins, who thought the boy of ten good enough to give him the solo soprano position at his church. At eleven he sang solos at the opening of St. George's RC Cathedral, Southwark, and a year later became 'Chamber Singer' to the Marquis of Anglesey. Later he had a fine bass voice and was for many years with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. He declared his repertory to include 92 operas!
At the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in St. Paul's in 1852, the choirs of the Cathedral, Abbey, Chapel Royal and the Temple took part. There was a legend that a Temple boy sang a solo as his coffin was lowered into the crypt, and that he was Henry Sanders ' 1st Chorister of the Temple, 1 May 1851'.
George Ansell was singing in the choir between 1856-63. At sixteen he was probably head boy at the death of the Prince Consortin 1861. Hopkins decided to change the anthem and chose one containing a difficult solo. Sir John Goss happened to be in the congregation and after the service congratulated Hopkins on the rendering of the anthem. He asked him how long they had been practising it, and on hearing that it was only that morning Goss asked to speak to the solo boy. George Ansell was produced and was thereupon tipped a golden sovereign.
A hitherto unknown soloist's name has come to light through the researches made by the Rev. Stephen Keeble who has kindly given us a copy of a memorial of The Rev. George Rothwell. Mr. Keeble has written an account of the work of George's brother, who rebuilt the Temple organ for Walford Davies in 1910.
George Rothwell was born in 1855 and in 1867 became a chorister at the Temple Church. He quickly attracted considerable attention by his beautiful voice. His brother Frederick wrote: 'What used to distinguish him most from the very first was a perfect absence of boyish nervousness when singing or playing, and the bold manner in which he would sing the difficult solos at the Temple.....often gained him great praise. I remember on one occasion, after he had sung a solo...... a perfect stranger met him as he was leaving the church and insisted on giving him a sovereign for singing his solo so beautifully.' So that was another sovereign for Temple soloists! George Rothwell was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1873. Sadly, he died in 1882 in his 27th year.
Walter Lewis was head boy and soloist in 1882; his brother Ernest followed similarly in 1888. About this time six Temple choristers sang at several concerts for Otto Goldschmidt at the Albert Hall. His wife, the celebrated soprano Jenny Lind, would come to the Temple practice-room to run through their parts with them, always bringing packets of sweets in sugar-loaf bags. She was then in her sixties and last sang publically in 1883.
We now come to the celebrated Henry J. Humm. He was accepted as a 'supernumerary' at the age of eight in 1881 and continued to sing until 1890. His voice was legendary. All who heard him were unanimous in the opinion that his singing was exceptional and that no other boy's singing had yet surpassed him. His voice was mature, even and expressive. A.E. Wildey, a new chorister in 1889, first heard him sing 0 for the wings of a dove. 'I was spell-bound. I had never heard a voice like it, before or since. I consider Joe Humm the most perfect boy singer I ever heard, and that he just 'pipped' Lough.' Ernest Minnion wrote: 'I can remember Joey as a marvellous solo boy, and to this day I do not believe I have ever heard his superior. Two indelible impressions remain in my mind - Joey's Hear my Prayer and his solo in Mozart's Glory, Honour, Praise and Power. The treble solo makes a tremendous demand on the singer.' In celebration of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 a masque was held at the Inner Temple before Princess Louise. A report in the Daily Telegraph said: 'The voices of the Temple Church Choir gave sweet expression to the madrigals......but it was a boy, and rather a little boy, named Henry Humm who made the greatest hit in the evening's vocalisation with the song Orpheus with his lute to the music of Arthur Sullivan. A rapturous encore brought the youngster back to the stage.'
Alfred Capel Dixon was in the choir from 1900-07. He was one of the first new choristers with Walford Davies. 'Dick' wrote of Doctor Davies' fascinating eloquence and his choir-training. 'Long before Master Lough's time there was a succession of boy soloists trained by Doctor whose voices testified to his power of inspiring a singer with the right technique without spoiling his natural gifts. One Sunday afternoon there were eight solos from different boys, all of whom were competent and showed good form.' One of these was 'Chink' Cocking (1901-07). He had a voice of beautiful quality and was cantoris soloist for over three years, retaining his voice until the age of seventeen. Sadly he was killed in France in the First World War.
But Dick was the best singer and musician and most beloved of all. C.T. Waddams wrote: 'I have treasured memories of Dick singing I know that my Redeemer liveth and decades later of his tenor solos. He was the greatest chorister both as man and boy that I have ever known.' Dick's fine tenor voice can be heard to splendid effect on this CD.
E.S. Ripley (1907-11) believed that the choir was at its best during his time as head boy and soloist. In 1909 'Pip' Ripley sang the difficult solo Ye now are sorrowful from Brahms' Requiem. At the wedding of H.H. D'aeth in April 1911 at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, he sang the solo Love one another by Wesley and, apart from the normal fee, he was given - guess what - 'a beautiful golden sovereign.' At last, and nearly eighteen, he left the choir. 'His singing of 0 for the wings of a dove will long be remembered by all those privileged to hear it.'
But there were still more excellent singers to follow. Louis Bothamley, the head boy in 1914, had a voice of beautiful quality - some would say the most perfect of all, and as a soloist became a worthy successor to Ripley.
Alfred Buckley (1911-18) became head boy and soloist and a great leader with a fine team. During the war the choir sang at many camp concerts for the troops where 'Buckles' repeated his famous You'll get there (Parry). Towards the end of the war Messiah Part III, including the Amen Chorus, was sung at Temple. Doctor wrote in The Templar that 'Buckles sang I know that my Redeemer liveth as well as I have ever heard it sung.' On his first visit to Temple, G.T.B. heard Buckley singing and said that he had never heard such a beautiful voice.
And now we come to Ernest Lough, Dr. George Thalben-Ball and our recordings. Tom Meddings followed Denis Barthel in 1933 and was soloist until 1937. He has been featured in the first CD but unfortunately his beautiful singing of Ye now are sorrowful (Brahms) was never recorded.
Two more outstanding soloists followed in 1939, Alan Young and Kenneth Kedge, also as duettists. Undoubtedly their singing would have been recorded but unfortunately the war prevented this. Who was the best soloist among all those mentioned above? We shall never know!
© Denis Barthel, Stephen Beet & David Lewer, August 2002
Amphion Recordings is especially grateful for the help of David Lewer and Denis Barthel, who have collaborated with Stephen Beet in the writing of this booklet and in the selection of photographs. Major Denis Barthel M.B.E. now lives in Vancouver B.C, a full account of his life as a chorister appears in the first CD, see opposite page. David Lewer was a chorister from 1931 to 1933 and returned as a 'gentleman' of the choir in 1954, remaining until the retirement of Sir George Thalben-Ball in 1982. He is the author of the definitive history of the choir, A Spiritual Song (1961). Thanks also are expressed to Martin Carson, Stuart Orr, Colin Chamley, the National Sound Archive & E.M.I. Abbey Road Studios who have provided the recordings. Sonita Cox & Ruth Edge of E.M.I. Archives have dated the recordings. Eve Barsham has provided professional advice.
Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings
The Reverend Stephen Keeble has published
The Progress of Frederick Rothwell, which
is available from St. George's Vicarage, 96 Pinner View, Harrow,
Middlesex. HA1 4RJ. This
includes photographs and much information about the organ at the Temple
Church, which was
destroyed by enemy action on the night of May 10th 1941. The Temple Church
in London by
David Lewer & Robert Dark is available price £28, published by Historical
Publications Ltd. and
distributed by Phillimore.
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This page was last modified on 01 September 2004