PHI CD 185: THE BRITISH CHORAL TRADITION VOLUME FOUR:
Edward C Bairstow Choral
Music The Choir of York Minster Directed by Francis Jackson
Live & Session Recordings 1956-1974
 Magnificat &  Nunc Dimittis in D Rec. November 1962.
 Jesu, grant me this Rec, 1956.
 Jesu the very thought
 Lord, I call upon thee
 Te Deum in D
 Let all mortal flesh keep silence
 I will wash my hands in innocency
 I sat down under his shadow
 Lord, thou hast been our refuge
 If the Lord had not helped me Rec. 1964.
 Benedicite in E flat Rec. 1958.
 Psalm 114 - When Israel came out of Egypt
 The Lamentation
 Blessed City, Heavenly Salem Rec 1965.
TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 78.55
 - ,  &  conducted by Francis Jackson.
 - ,  &  private live recordings made by the late John Rothera during
services at the Minster. Organ accompaniments by Francis Jackson.
 from the tape collection of Andrew Carter of York, live recording. Organist - Francis Jackson.
 -  recorded 14 & 15 February 1974 by Peter Self & issued as part of
stereo vinyl L.P. record Cannon 4977. Organ accompaniments by Geoffrey Coffin.
 &  recorded 10 April 1966 by John Roden and issued on 7 inch vinyl E.P. record.
Organ accompaniments by Ronald Perrin.
Authoritative performances directed by Francis Jackson, Bairstow's most eminent pupil
Most of the tape recordings made by John Rothera of York (1916-1997) are now in the care of David Rogers of Doncaster, to whom I am grateful for their loan. An article about John Rothera by Francis Jackson appears in the booklet to Amphion PHI CD 184, see page 14 for details. The Rev. John Roden of York kindly provided the recordings on tracks 13 & 14, thanks also to Andrew Carter for the recording heard on track 15. The late Ramsey Silver of Banks Music Publications generously gave Amphion the Cannon master tapes, tracks 4 to 10.
Produced & digital restoration of recordings from master tapes by Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings.
Sir Edward C. Bairstow (1874-1946) by Francis Jackson
Edward Cuthbert Bairstow was one of the great English musicians of his generation. As organist, choir trainer, composer, adjudicator, conductor, accompanist, writer, lecturer and, above all, as teacher, he was pre-eminent. He was an all-round musician who did well whatever he set his hand to. As a personality he left a deep impression on all who knew him. Some hated him for his blunt speaking, but those who were in sympathy with him and there were many have nothing but admiration and affection for his memory.
His pupils were legion, and they, perhaps more than others, revere him because they know him well through being in intimate touch with him. As well as teaching, organ playing, harmony and counterpoint, he was much in demand as a singing teacher and as a coach for degree work. No less than seven cathedral organ lofts were, at one time, occupied by his pupils, and best known singing pupil, Elsie Suddaby was one of the top sopranos of her day. [There are two Amphion CDs devoted to Suddaby's singing: PHI CD 134 & 141]
His greatness lay, perhaps, in his absolute sincerity and his over-riding determination to put up with nothing less than the best. This made him a hard task master, and any who did not measure up to his standards were aware of their shortcomings in one or two ways. If he was out of patience, strong words were used, ending, more than once, in the ejection of the offender. In the case of one pupil, she was closely followed out of the door by her music. This was not an encouraging beginning for the next pupil, who was about to enter by the same door for her first lesson.
His second method was infinitely more subtle. So much so, in fact, that one was not always aware that he was referring to oneself. This obliqueness sometimes meant that it could be some time before one would grasp the fact that he intended the words for one's own use. This was an invaluable attribute for a teacher.
His words were few, which fact probably caused them to be remembered more easily. But they always immediately reached the heart of the matter and anything not essential to the point in question was ruthlessly eschewed. Economy was of paramount importance to him, in words as in life generally.
Edward Bairstow was born 22 August 1874 in Huddersfield where his father was a clothing manufacturer, and from whom he inherited his fiery temperament. His father was a "handful" for his wife who yet managed to preserve a sunny disposition through many years of marriage to him. The family were members of the Methodist Church, and musicians were regarded by them as drunken scamps. Thus there was opposition to the musical son pursuing a career in music. But this was broken down by Bairstow's dogged determination which resulted eventually in his being sent as an articled pupil to Sir Frederick Bridge, organist of Westminster Abbey. Before this he had received tuition in music from Henry Parratt in Huddersfield, brother of Sir Walter Parratt, organist of St. George's Chapel, Windsor. At the Abbey he learned the Cathedral organist's craft from Bridge and his assistant Walter Alcock, later to become organist of the Chapel Royal and of Salisbury Cathedral, who was also a noted recitalist to the end of his long life.
This was a happy and profitable time for the emergent musician. He ran a choir at Petworth, consisting of members of country families, and he became organist of All Saints, Norfolk Square, Paddington, since pulled down. He worked for his examinations and in 1894 became Bachelor of Music at Durham, at which university Bridge's brother Joseph ("Chester Bridge") was Professor of Music. Bairstow was a keen cyclist and tennis player and enjoyed frequent trips into the Sussex countryside with his friend James R. Dear, later to become a well-known organist at Eastbourne.
His first job came in 1899 and this was as organist of Wigan Parish Church. He became conductor of the Wigan Choral Society as well as of that at Blackburn. This brought him into contact with the great choral works which included the "Deam of Gerontius" very soon after it was written.
On moving to Leeds in 1906, he retained the conductorship of Blackburn and the following year took over the Preston Choral Society, so he led an extremely busy life between them, his pupils, and the daily choral service which has been the proud tradition at the Parish Church since its foundation in 1839. He was organist at successive Leeds Triennial Festivals under conductors such as Sullivan, Stanford, Richter and Rachmaninoff.
After seven years in Leeds he took over the post of organist of York Minster where, for the next thirty-three years, he continued in the same vein, raising the music of the Cathedral to a high pitch of excellence through his inspiration, industry and discipline. He did the same for the York Musical Society, the oldest body of its kind in the country, and the Leeds Philharmonic Society, a flourishing large chorus which he took over in 1916.
By this time he was becoming widely known in music circles for his varied activities. He was on the council of the Royal College of Organists, of which he became president for two years in 1928. He was president of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the Incorporated Association of Organists, and his addresses to these bodies received wide press coverage, as did his frequent talks and lectures in many different parts of the country. These dicta were always imbued with an intensely serious purpose. He would have considered it wasteful not to use the opportunity for inculcating a message which would help forward the cause of music.
For, let us not forget, music before the Second World War, before Arts Council subsidies and the cheap reproduction of music by radio and gramophone, had to struggle for its existence. Many a time Bairstow inveighed against the evils of broadcasting and its emptying of concert halls, or against the "poisonous materialism" which he feared was spreading through the nation; this as long ago as 1932. What he would have thought of the latter in the times since does not bear thinking about. As to the former, his fears were unfounded surely, and he would have rejoiced that music was being brought to the masses in such plenty.
As an adjudicator he was a power to be reckoned with, and he would say exactly what he felt, despite the feelings of those he was criticising. The result was that, in his own words: "I have been asked to adjudicate at most of the big competitive festivals once." His Canadian tour of adjudication in 1928 with Sir Hugh Roberton made enemies for him throughout a whole township when he criticised two popular singers for singing "trash" at an organ recital he gave. But he was not in the least perturbed. He considered that he had been sent to teach the Canadians about music, and anything less would have been a dereliction of duty.
Having become Doctor of Music he succeeded Bridge at Durham in 1929 and, as Professor of Music, during the ensuing years, raised the degree to a very high standard. As a pedagogue his "Counterpoint and Harmony" published in 1937 was well received, treating, as it did, counterpoint as a vehicle for music rather than as an academic exercise. After this he published "Singing learned from Speech" in collaboration with his great friend Plunket Greene; also "The evolution of Musical Form" which was based on a series of wartime (1940) lectures at Hull University. He also had published secular music, songs, part-songs and two sets of variations, one for two pianos, and other for violin and piano.
Through all this activity Bairstow was producing a daily choral services at the Minster, a job which continued day in, day out, year after year. The high point was reached when, in his fourteenth year at York, he organised a week's festival of music celebrating the Minster's 1300th anniversary, the climax of which was Bach's Mass in B minor. His work with the choir of 20 boys and 9 men was now famous, and his accompaniments were models of taste, musical perception and inspiration.
He had been reared in the full flood of the Wagnerian Romantic era, and his whole attitude to music reflects this.
Towards the end of his life honours came his way, he was knighted in 1932 and received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Leeds and Oxford which he prized highly. At his seventieth birthday a concert by his pupils and the Minster choir was followed by a dinner in his honour. He died two years later, on May 1 1946 after a long illness caused by an abcess on the lung.
© Francis Jackson, East Acklam, Yorkshire, July 2004
In 1996 the Ebor Press of York published Dr Jackson's biography of Bairstow, entitled Blessed City, the life and works of Edward C. Bairstow (ISBN 1 85972 192 0)