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Harold Darke (1888-1976)

Harold Darke at RCM in 1953 (photo J Bertalot)
In the annals of 20th-century choral music the name of Harold Darke bears a distinguished and honourable place. As organist of St Michael’s Church, Cornhill, in the heart of the City of London, he achieved fame for his Monday lunchtime recitals - 1,833 concerts in all given over his fifty-year term of service from 1916 to 1966 – which became a musical institution. No less so did the performances of the St Michael’s Singers, which he founded in 1919 and conducted until his retirement, performing the choral classics and new works by Howells, Vaughan Williams and others. One of the high points of his career was his appointment in 1941 as organist of King’s College, Cambridge, during the absence on war service of Boris Ord. His expertise as a choir trainer and brilliance as an organist fitted him well for this post. Services at that time had been reduced to weekends, so he was able to continue his recitals in London and elsewhere, as well as his teaching at the Royal College of Music, where he was a professor for over sixty years.

 

Harold Darke at the organ of St Michael's , Cornhill
For as long as the Anglican Communion continues its time-honoured traditional celebration of Evensong, Harold Darke the composer will be remembered for his Evening Service in F major. No less enduring, his much-loved Christmas anthem, In the Bleak Midwinter belongs to a group of short choral items, chiefly for the Christmas season, which embodies his unique gift for memorable melody and harmony. Many of these, Love Came Down at Christmas, for example, and A Christmas Carol 'The Shepherds had an Angel, the Wise Men had a star', unavailable for many years, are now back in print, to be rediscovered and enjoyed by a new generation of singers. Darke added sparingly to the repertoire of his own instrument, the organ, but did so always with works of fine quality, such as the Rhapsody, Opus 4. His occasional pieces for the piano include the Five Miniatures, piano pieces for young players of early to intermediate grade, with a 'Song without Words' in classic folksong style at the centre of the collection. 

 

Composed in the First-World-War period and its aftermath, two short cantatas for chorus and orchestra, the elegiac 'As the Leaves Fall', written 'To the undying memory of those who have fallen', and The Kingdom of God, setting Francis Thompson's 'O world invisible we view thee', add another dimension to Darke’s achievement, and reveal his sensitivity to the times. Owing to an interrupted transmission history of material, vocal scores only of these works may currently be obtained, but full scores and parts will be added to the catalogue when they become available. [Photos courtesy of John Bertalot]

Harold Darke works published by Stainer & Bell

These titles can be ordered in our online shop where you will also find prices and further information. The items with [PDF] after them are links to free sample pages in the Adobe Acrobat format.

Choral

As the Leaves Fall. [14'] Short Cantata for Soprano Solo, SATB Chorus and Orchestra.

SATB Vocal Score (with organ arr. Peter Davis) (Ref. W229) [PDF]

SATB Choir, flute, clarinet, horn, harp & strings. Score and Parts (Rental Ref. HL377)
Benedictus in F
. SATB and Organ (Ref. W172)
Carols, Three. (Ref. W211)
Love came down at Christmas (SATB); Cradle Hymn (Solo or unison and piano); A Christmas Carmen (SATB)
The three carols in this new collection date from the early years of the twentieth century, but they have a perennial freshness that is typical of Darke's other enduring choral works, such as the much-loved carol In the bleak midwinter. They may be sung equally effectively as individual items, or together as a short anthology of seasonal music. A solo voice or unison singing would be equally effective in Cradle Hymn, which offers a refreshingly unfamiliar tune to time-honoured words. A Christmas Carmen makes for a rousing conclusion with a seasonal message of goodwill.
Christmas Carol, A. S. Solo , SATB and Organ (Ref. W198) [PDF]
This beautiful carol with words by Victorian poet Christina Rossetti shares all the charm and magic of Darke’s classic Rossetti setting, In the Bleak Midwinter.
In the Bleak Midwinter. SATB and Organ (Ref. CH8) [PDF]
In the Bleak Midwinter. SSA with optional Organ (Ref. W107) [PDF]

In the Bleak Midwinter. TTBB with optional Organ. Arranged by John Rutter (Ref. W223)
In the Bleak Midwinter [4'] Optional String Parts for use with SATB or SSA version. (Ref. AC17)
Score and Strings 8.8.6.6.4.
In the Bleak Midwinter [4'] Arranged John Rutter. Optional String Parts for use with SATB or SSA version. (Rental Ref. HL313)
Score and Strings 8.8.6.6.4.
Jubilate in F. SATB and Organ (Ref. W161)
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in F. SATB and Organ (Ref. W42)
Te Deum in F. SATB and Organ (Ref. W160)

Organ

Rhapsody, Op. 4. (Ref. H363)
Reissued in 1994. Darke's Rhapsody is a flawlessly constructed work that could be used as a meditative prelude or postlude within a service, or as a separate recital item. Gently expressive harmonies and warm melodies linger in the memory with the same poety and nostalgia as Darke's masterpiece: his Christmas setting of Christina Rossetti's 'In the Bleak Midwinter'.

From the Archives...

The following titles by Harold Darke are not in our current sales catalogue, but are available to special order as authorised photocopies through our archive library. They are now available through our online shop.
England, Awake. SATB (Ref. 52112)
Five Miniatures. Solo Piano (Ref. 35365)
Kyrie (from Morning Service in F). SATB voices (Ref. 42207)
The Kingdom of God. Soprano solo and SATB chorus. Vocal score with piano (Ref. 44854)
Pack Clouds Away. Voice and piano. (Ref. 53761)
Three Baby Songs
(The Child; Infant Joy; A Cradle Song).
Voice and piano. (Ref. 53763)
Three Hymns.
Jesus I rest on Thee; Rifflealp; An Evening Hymn. SATB and Organ (Ref. 44855)
Three Songs of Innocence (The Shepherd; The Lamb; Spring). Voice and piano. (Ref. 53762)
To Blossoms
SATB. (Ref. 52093)
Uphill.
Voice and piano. (Ref. 53760)



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