God is gone up       Gerald Finzi

God is gone up, with a triumphant shout:

The Lord with sounding trumpets’ melodies;

Sing praise, sing praise, sing praises out,

Unto our King sing praise seraphicwise!

Lift up your heads ye lasting doors they sing,

And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly

In flakes of glory down Him to attend,

And hear heart-cramping notes of melody

Surround His chariot, as it did ascend;

Mixing their music, making every string

More to enravish as they this tune sing.

Edward Taylor (c1646-1729)

This anthem was commissioned for a service at St Sepulchre’s Church, Holborn Viaduct, on Saint Cecilia’s Day (November 22nd) 1951. It is in strict ternary form, with the opening verse repeated without alteration after the second verse. Bold fanfare figures pervade the opening section of music, and these give way to strong lyrical lines with pairs of upper voices contrasting with pairs of lower voices. An organ interlude prepares for a more tender second verse, with some poignant word setting, again, often contrasting pairs of voices, before the opening fanfares return and the piece ends with a flourish. 

Gerald Finzi, the son of a shipbroker, received most of his education privately, at home, tuition in music and composition coming from Edward Bairstow, organist of York Minster. Finzi’s father and three older brothers were all killed in action between 1914 and 1918 and this had a profound effect on the young Finzi leading him in his early years to a life of introspection, private-study and literature. In 1922 he moved to Gloucestershire and, influenced by the same countryside which had moved Ivor Gurney, Herbert Howells and Vaughan Williams, began to compose in isolation. On the advice of Adrian Boult, Finzi took a course in counterpoint at the RCM, then settled in London. As if making up for lost time he threw himself fully into the cultural and social life of London, attending concerts, recitals, museums, galleries, theatres and parties, and meeting eminent musicians, poets, artists, actors and socialites. He began teaching composition at the RAM, and in 1923, married Joyce Black, a prominent portrait artist, who numbered Vaughan Williams, Arthur Bliss, Adrian Boult and other eminent musicians amongst her subjects. In 1935 the couple bought a 16-acre site high on the Ashmansworth Hills in Hampshire and built a house there ‘designed to work in’. By contemporary standards their living was frugal, but Joyce painted in her studio and Finzi set about composition with new zeal. He also assembled a substantial library of music, poetry and literature, and an orchard of trees bearing rare varieties of apples, saving several from extinction. Solo song settings of poetry by Hardy proved popular, as did the sacred work Dies Natalis, destined for its first performance at the 1939 Three Choirs Festival, but delayed when that festival was cancelled because of the war. There followed concertos for the clarinet and the cello, the Christmas chora  wl piece In Terra Pax, more songs, and the momentous setting of Wordsworth’s great ode, Intimations of Immortality, performed to acclaim at the Three Choirs Festival in 1950. In 1951 Finzi discovered that he was suffering from a rare form of leukaemia (now known as Hodgkin’s disease), and he gradually became weaker and less resistant to other illnesses. He died in 1956, the day after the first performance of his cello concerto was broadcast live on the radio. His library of over 3,700 volumes, considered one of the finest ever assembled privately in England, was divided between the Universities of St Andrews and Reading. His wife survived him by 36 years, and, with their two sons, established the Finzi trust to promote his music. Melodically and harmonically, Finzi’s quintessentially English style owes much to Vaughan Williams, Howells and Elgar. His love of Parry is also discernible in his music, as is his admiration of William Walton. 

The poet, Edward Taylor, was born in Leicestershire and was a protestant dissenter. He was a teacher at some point in Bagworth, but, following the restoration of the monarchy, refused to sign the Act of Uniformity, which cost him his teaching position. Emigration to the USA followed and he ended his days as a graduate of Harvard, and an ordained priest in Massachusetts.