Tomorrow night (Friday, June 14) Andrew Adair is playing an organ recital at St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Toronto. The theme of his programme is organ music written by past directors of music at SMM over the years. I think Healey Willan and Andrew Ager will be front and centre.
A composer named Herbert Hortingswell will also appear, with his dissonant, spiky composition, based on the Gregorian chant “Lazare, veni foras” (used by Clemens non Papa in his polyphonic composition of the 16th century.) You may wonder why you don’t recall his tenure at SMM.
So, what I’d like to tell you is that way back in the last century, I used to compose using that name – Herbert Hortingswell, or Richard Amadeus Purcell, or other such dreamed up sobriquets. In fact my friend Brian Power went so far as to write a fictional biography of H. H. that he posted on an online community group we used to have that was a primitive precursor of Facebook.
But why use an imaginary musical persona? All this nonsense was a shield, because I did not have any confidence at all in my own compositions, and if I passed my pieces off as the work of some obscure, unknown composer, I could avoid any judgement or criticism that might come down from listeners. I suppose it was only when I arrived at St. Mary Mag’s in 2006, and people were so generous with their positive feedback about the music I was writing, that I was really encouraged to pour it all out, under my own name.
So I guess the moral of the story is this: if there’s a person in your life trying to do something creative, whether it’s cooking, or knitting, writing poetry, playing the harpsichord or gardening, you could tell them something positive about their endeavours. If you encourage them, they’ll probably get better at what they’re doing.
End of today’s lesson.

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2 Responses to Herbert Hortingswell

  1. Mary Gillmeister says:

    Ha-ha, I think I remember that. I will be attending, and I am looking forward to hearing the harmonium harmonics of Herbert’s harmonious harmonies from his halcyon days. Hallelujah. 😀 And seriously: yes, let’s be much more encouraging of those who are making a go of something – it’s so important to be supportive of new endeavours.

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      He also wrote a “choral Amen” for Calvin Presbyterian church, and a solo oboe piece called “Asperges”, all presumed lost.

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