The Margaret Glyn memorial concert on 5th October 1996
A rare opportunity was presented recently by the Friends of St. Mary’s Music to hear a performance of some of the music of Margaret Glyn, who died 50 years ago. The last member of the Glyn family who had once owned a large part of Ewell, she had spent most of her life in the village and fought to keep its character. But she was also a trained musician and a composer of symphonies, orchestral suites, song cycles and organ music, the scores of which have mostly disappeared.
When Charles Abdy came across some of her manuscripts in Bourne Hall Library he wanted to know how the music sounded and drew them to the attention of Paul Taylor of St. Mary’s Music. He undertook the arduous task of transcribing the manuscripts into performing editions, so that we were able to hear three of her works at this concert.
Since we know that Margaret Glyn was interested in sixteenth and seventeenth-century music and was also influenced by composers of her own generation, such as Vaughan Williams and Grieg, the simple style of the pieces we heard was no surprise. There was an Adagio for Violin and Organ arranged by the composer from her own Quintet, a Baroque Suite and a Lyric Suite.
It would have been interesting to have heard these pieces performed with the confidence of professional musicians, but the St. Mary’s Chamber Orchestra tackled their task with a will, and the wind section in particular did justice to the livelier passages in both the Baroque Suite and the Lyric Suite, though the memory remains of a gentle pastoral style with simple melodies and regular rhythms.
The concert was varied by the inclusion of works by other composers with Ewell connections who had been organists at St. Mary’s at the beginning of their careers; so that we had the opportunity of hearing the choir revel in two familiar anthems by Sir William Harris, and in a rather slow arrangement for ‘O God our Help in Ages Past’ by William Tans’ur, an eighteenth century organist and author of The Harmony of Sion. We also heard two modern pieces, a lyrical one by Mark Dancer, and the other by Richard Jenkinson himself, an affecting, understated, muted and mournful setting of Ave Maria.
Besides the hard-working orchestra and choir, thanks are due to the four organists, Peter Reeve, Paul Taylor, the vicar, Richard Hanford, and Richard Jenkinson. Richard Jenkinson and Paul Taylor were the conductors.