T. Tertius Noble: ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit’

The beautiful “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” by T. Tertius Noble was sung by the Trinity Choir this past Sunday.  The anthem is a setting of Ephesians 4:30-32 and opens with a lengthy soprano solo that was elegantly sung in this instance by Kristine Chaney.

Listen to T. Tetius Noble’s ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit’ here:

In our preparation of this anthem, the choir spent a little time musing about the lore and legend of T. Tertuis Noble himself, the founder of the noted St. Thomas Choir School in New York City.  First of all, the name:  what sort of a name is ‘Tertius’? And what does the ‘T’ stand for?  It turns out that the T is for Thomas, and that both his father and grandfather were called Thomas as well.  So he was the third Thomas Noble—hence, Tertius.

T. Tertius Noble (1867-1953) at the organ at St. Thomas

When Noble assumed the post at St. Thomas in 1912, he was already at the top of his profession in England.  He was the organist at York Minster and, at that time, the sanity of leaving ‘Old’ York for New York was seriously questioned by many.  When Noble’s successor at York Minster, Edward Bairstow, was asked about it he supposedly quipped that he would ‘rather go to the devil’ than to America.  But times do change: in fact, history repeated itself 92 years later when John Scott left St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to come to St. Thomas in 2004.

Aside from his edition of Handel’s Messiah (the gray Schirmer books), I would say that Noble’s most ubiquitous musical legacy is a volume called Free Organ Accompaniments to One Hundred Well-Known Hymn Tunes.  It’s one of those collections of fancy accompaniments that organists use for the last verse of hymns.  The music is okay, but I think the most interesting thing by far about the book is Noble’s preface.  It gives a glimpse into church music of that era and reveals some really strongly-held biases on the part of the author.  Here are some excerpts:

“THE practice of singing hymns in unison has been a common one for many years, especially in churches where the congregation really knows the spiritual uplift to be gained from such a custom. I recall the thrilling effect produced by some seven hundred undergraduates singing in unison at Trinity College, Cambridge, England during the services held there on Sunday evenings. It was not only the unisonal singing that moved one, but also the masterful, free organ accompaniments improvised by Charles Villiers Stanford. As his assistant, from 1890 to 1892, I came under the inspiring influence of this outstanding church musician; and ever since that time it has been my practice to encourage unison singing in all hymns, at least in one verse, or, if the hymn is long, in two or three verses.

“Since retiring from active church work, I have had the opportunity of writing down some of these organ accompaniments used in actual practice. This book is the outcome of over fifty years’ experience of congregational singing in churches and cathedrals in England, and at St. Thomas’ Church, New York City. I hope that its contents will be useful to organists throughout the country in churches of every denomination; at least they will be found useful in demonstrating what can be done in this fashion. There may be some who will challenge the changes of harmony and the free accompanimental treatment that has been used to embellish the melodies.  But I am sure that a large number of organists will enjoy the varied treatments provided, and I trust they will be considered in good taste.

Now we leave introduction and enter into commentary:

“In the playing of free organ accompaniments care should be taken to avoid thick registration. Do not use “doubles” or sub-couplers on the manuals, and play the pedal part as written, in the right pitch. The constant use of the lower notes on the pedal board becomes tiresome and should be avoided. Filling in with the left hand should be discouraged, especially in the doubling of the major third and the leading note, and, of course, the promiscuous [emphasis added] adding of the seventh in the chord.  A thick, muddy effect only causes confusion and gives no aid to the congregation in singing. Clean phrasing in the pedal part as well as on the manuals is very essential.  The poor habit of “carrying over” at the end of the lines is very tiresome; this should occur only when the sense of the words demands it.

And yet more commentary:

“Some of the hymns in this collection are of a rather sentimental type, not so much from the standpoint of the melody, but because of the poor harmonization. Many of the tunes written between 1830 and 1900 suffered because the composers, although they could write a good melody, were not able to provide interesting harmonic backgrounds, with good part writing for all the voices…such boring part writing would seem tedious even for a small choir in a village church…

“The singing of hymns by the congregation should be encouraged not only by the organist, but also by the rector or minister of the church. Indeed, an occasional word from the pulpit about this important matter will be found to be most helpful. It is hoped that this collection of additional accompaniments may likewise be useful in carrying out the Psalmist’s injunction to “sing merrily unto God our strength; make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob.”

T. Tertius Noble, 1946


Well done, good and faithful servant

Antone Aquino (1929-2012)

Since retiring to the Grand Strand area nearly twenty years ago, Antone and Margaret Aquino have been wonderful friends of the arts in general and to the music at Trinity in particular.

They met as undergraduates at the Crane School of Music (State University of New York, Potsdam) and their partnership in music and life was fixed from that point forward.  Antone was a gifted conductor as well as being a fine composer, singer, and organist.  Margaret always has been–and continues to be–a fabulous pianist with a particular love for accompanying.  Both are almost fanatical in their love of opera.  For all their talents as performers, the Aquinos are, at their core, teachers.  This was especially so of Antone—his years as music professor at Salem State College in Massachusetts were always spoken of with particular fondness and pride.

Antone vigorously rehearsing the Salem State College Glee Club in the early 1970’s

The cancer that Antone had dealt with for nearly two years had only begun to slow him down significantly in the last few months–and when death came to him on April 25, it came gently, with Margaret and their daughter Mary Margaret at his side.  Antone’s funeral took place at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church in Shalotte on May 3, and his ashes are interred in a very beautiful prayer garden on the church grounds.

On Sunday, May 6 at the 11:00 service, I played an ‘Aria’ for organ that Antone had written about ten years ago.  A manuscript of the piece was in a collection of scores that was at Trinity when I arrived.  It is a lyrical and nostalgic piece, and I was glad to add it to my repertoire and to play it in Antone’s memory.

Listen to Antone Aquino’s ‘Aria’ here:

Carolina Master Chorale This Weekend

An American Songbook:
From the American Church to Basin Street to Broadway

The Carolina Master Chorale, Timothy Koch, conductor, presents its season finale, “An American Songbook:  From the American Church to Basin Street to Broadway”.  The concert spans a broad spectrum of American music opening with hymn anthems from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and suites from the smash hit musicals, “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” and elegant vocal jazz.

Soprano Jo Nell Koch and the Long Bay Symphony Chamber Orchestra open the second half performing Samuel Barber’s beloved “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” on a prose text by James Agee.  This work has been widely popularized in recordings by sopranos Leontyne Price and Dawn Upshaw.  The famous “Old American Songs” of Aaron Copland close the concert, sung by baritone Jeffrey Jones, and accompanied by the Chorale.   The great baritone, William Warfeild, premiered these highly entertaining songs with the New York Philharmonic in the late 1950’s.

Friday, May 4, 2012 – 8:00 PM
Calabash Presbyterian Church, Sunset Beach, NC

Saturday, May 5, 2012 – 4:00 PM
First United Methodist Church, Conway

Sunday, May 6, 2012 – 4:00 PM
Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach

For tickets call 843-444-5774
or visit the CMC website here.

Music from this Past Sunday

Fourth Sunday of Easter  – April 29
‘Good Shepherd’ Sunday

Please click on the links below to hear music from this service.  Download the service leaflet here

Darke: ‘In Green Pastures’
arr. Evans: ‘Resignation’ (Hymn 664)

Moravian traditional, arr Pfohl: Jesus makes my heart rejoice
Janet Inman Haigh, soprano

Hymn 518, Christ is made the sure foundation (Westmeinster Abbey)

Psalm 23 (Simplified Anglican Chant, Robert Knox Kennedy)
Kristine Chaney, solo

Oxley: My Shepherd is Lord
Kristine Chaney, soprano; Karen Kerswell, alto

Billings: I am the Rose of Sharon
Lisa Jennings, soprano; Larry Wilson, bass

Hymn 664, My Shepherd will supply my need (Resignation)

Hymn 348, Lord, we have come at your own invitation (O quanta qualia)