West Gallery church music

West Gallery church music is my abiding interest, and takes up much of my time in retirement. It was the music of town and country churches during the period c1700-1850. It would have been familiar to many churchgoers (i.e. most of the population). It is different in both style and function from the now more familiar cathedral style, typified by composers such as Maurice Green, William Boyce and Samuel Wesley. Much of the repertoire consists of settings of metrical psalms. These are often rather lively and florid, which is one of the reasons why the Victorians systematically suppressed the style during the mid-19th Century.

I enjoy reading the novels of Thomas Hardy, who was himself a West Gallery musician, and who describes the genre in his novels and poems. In 1991 my son Oliver gave me for Christmas a cassette entitled Music of Hardy's Wessex by The Mellstock Band, which includes much West Gallery music. I immediately became interested, and joined the West Gallery Music Association (WGMA).

In 1995 I joined Chiltern West Gallery Quire, and in February 1997 I founded London Gallery Quire. I participate in many West Gallery activities, often as conductor or workshop leader. I lead an annual week-end West Gallery course at Little Benslow Hills, Hitchin. In 2006 I was elected to the committee of the WGMA, and from 2013-18 served as Honorary Secretary. In 2018 I was honoured by the Association, by being made an Honorary Vice-President.

I have researched and edited West Gallery music since 1993, when I started investigating the Colby Manuscripts in the Isle of Man. This work culminated in the award of a PhD by the University of Liverpool in 2002. Together with other research I have now some 1150 editions of West Gallery settings, many available through Roding Music.

Four anthologies of West Gallery music have been published under my editorship:

  • West Gallery Music, published by Kevin Mayhew
  • Ye Boundless Realms of Joy published by the Centre for Manx Studies. This is culled from my PhD thesis, The Colby Manuscripts: West Gallery Church Music from the Southern Isle of Man (Abstract).
  • Your Voices Raise published by Roding Music and issued by London Gallery Quire, of whose repertoire it is an anthology of favourites.
  • The Divine Companion, self- published in 2018, is a complete practical edition of all the music in Henry Playford's four editions under that title, first published between 1701 and 1722. It is available from Fast-Print, price 9.99 (not my idea!), and from other internet sources.
Front cover of The Divine Companion
The Divine Companion