For me, two stories from Fellowes’ 1946 autobiography, Memoirs of an Amateur Musician, stand out:
Byrd’s Great Service
According to Fellowes, “the greatest thrill in the course of the whole of [his] researches” was finding Byrd’s Great Service, which he stumbled upon while visiting Durham to complete some Gibbons anthems. As soon as he started transcribing the folio part-books he recognized that he had found “a major work whose existence was till that moment unsuspected”. It has subsequently been described as “the most elaborate and the lengthiest setting of these standard liturgical texts ever written for the Anglican Church”.
But, after making the find, “a keen disappointment followed” as he discovered that he only had eight of the ten necessary parts. Further investigations revealed another, smaller part-book and, as he went to get it, he wrote:
My feelings may be imagined, for it depended on this whether or not it was going to be possible to produce a satisfactory score … My luck was in!
He later found some fragments of the tenth part in the British Museum and reconstructed the rest for the published score.
Here’s a recording of part of the Great Service made by Fellowes and the St George’s Singers in January 1923, followed by one from the Tallis Scholars from a much more recent date.
Yes, I know the pieces don’t match …
William Byrd – Nunc Dimittis: Gloria from the Great Service ed. E.H. Fellowes, with the English Singers
William Byrd – Te Deum from the Great Service, with the Tallis Scholars
Dolmetsch and Galpin
Fellowes was so irritated by Arnold Dolmetsch’s demand for a twenty-guinea fee for playing an obbligato lute part of only 18 bars in a planned performance of Bach’s St John Passion, in 1913, that he “let the matter drop”, borrowed a lute from fellow clergyman F.W. Galpin, taught himself how to play it, and performed in the concert – for free. He later ended up owning that instrument, when Galpin (after whom the Galpin Society is named) sold his collection a few years later.
Galpin’s collection, which consisted of almost 600 items and had taken him a lifetime to find, was bought by a benefactor for the Boston Museum in the United States.
I wonder whether such a sale would be allowed today, or if someone would step in and insist that it was bought for the nation, as it contained a goodly part of our (British) heritage. Given “dumbing down” and what’s happened with the musical instrument collection at the V & A (see also this Facebook group), perhaps no one would even bat an eyelid.
To end with, a madrigal double bill, sung by the St George’s Singers conducted by Rev. Dr E.H. Fellowes, as part of The Columbia History of Music by Ear and Eye.
Orlando Gibbons – The Silver Swan; John Farmer – Fair Phyllis
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