Monday, September 10, 2007

A great (but obscure) Howells piece

“Like as the Hart” is probably Herbert Howells’s most famous piece of choral music. It was published in a collection of 4 anthems that also included the well-known “O pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.

Two, though, of these four anthems are not available anymore from Oxford. A reseller might tell you that they are out of print, since Oxford no longer sells them. They are “We have heard with our ears” and “Let God arise”.

The title of the latter caught my eye, since after finding the connection that the Gregorian chant texts evince between Psalm 68 and Ascension and Pentecost, I have been kinda keeping my eye out for settings based on this psalm.

So, an inquiry to Oxford got me transferred and transferred around until I was finally referred to Banks Music Publications. Lo and behold, these people do sell new copies of this anthem - and it’s expensive as sin, probably because of low demand for it.

Anyway, I asked them to fax me a sample copy of it so I could look at it before ordering it. Verdict: it is AWESOME. It’s a crime that this one isn’t better known, IMO. The opening has this über-gutsy statement of “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered; let them also that hate Him flee before Him” - and from there it just gets better.

The only caveat, besides the price, is that it’s long - probably 7-8 minutes or so. I’ll try the Stanford mentioned in my last post on All Saints before I try this one. (There is also the fact that I lose so many choir members during Easter season to travel plans....alas.)

Incidentally, “Let God Arise” is £2.65 each, which currently is about $5.38. Ouch! BMP does also have “We have heard with our ears” (£1.85), but I don’t know anything about that piece.


At Monday, September 10, 2007 6:08:00 PM, Anonymous Pes said...

Cantor, this is Church music. What the heck is the point of charging $5.38 per copy? Do these people want to restrict the singing of this piece to hoity-toity choir festivals or other professional venues? Ha! As if.

Release it to the public domain and let God be praised.

At Monday, September 10, 2007 6:25:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


$5-ish per copy is about what you’ll pay for the Pärt “Beatitudes” as well. Some publishers just charge more. Alas.

Still, I’d buy it if I had the budget and if I knew its length were not a problem and that I had capable forces that time of year. It deserves to be discovered.

At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 4:42:00 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

You said that the high price might indicate low demand but this requires some fleshing out. The demand curve slopes downward so that a high quantity of units of a good are demanded at a lower price than a higher price, all else equal. The supply curve slops upwards so that more units of a good are supplied at a high price than a lower price. One thing we would not expect to see is low demand and high price, all else equal.

So why is the price so high? It could be an extreme shortage--say, a fixed supply--but it is probably just bad marketing.

At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 4:54:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


It’s similar to how the cheapest large-scale choral scores are often those that are most commonly performed: Messiah, Brahms Requiem, etc.

I think that when there is a steady demand, companies can do a better job of keeping inventory low, which allows them to sell it for less. A piece like this Howells, because it is so obscure, languishes with a high sticker price because so few of us order it.

It’s also 15 pages long - so it’s not a small thing, either.


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