I was coming back from the Ordinariate Pilgrimage to Walsingham with a couple of friends who have been Catholics for years. They had enjoyed the day greatly, and in particular the music and the hearty hymn singing. I would not disagree with those who believe that music from the Anglican tradition is one of the gifts that the Ordinariate might bring to the Catholic Church. So I use this as an excuse to do a short post about L. (Len) J. White. Some months ago I found a post on a Church Music website asking for details of him, but I was unable to raise anything from the Administrator when I tried to register. But Len White deserves to be remembered, as a devoted Anglo-Catholic who wrote some fine music within the English tradition – and perhaps some of his music might find its ways into our repertoire.
His best-known piece is the PRAYER OF ST RICHARD OF CHICHESTER which is to be heard still in English Cathedrals. You can hear it at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_kYVH_NSSo and there is a choir version, too. As a curate at St Margaret’s Leytonstone, I was familiar with his Mass setting, White in E flat. It was a unison setting with organ accompaniment, and occasional harmony for the choir to show off. In the 90’s when I moved to St Andrew’s. Willesden Green, I was to find out far more about Len White, much of it from David Chellew (the then organist) who had known him well.
Len White was for many years Deputy Head of St Andrew’s School. He lived with his sister, within walking distance of the church, which had a fine musical tradition, and was Choirmaster until his death in the 1970’s. He had music published, including two masses and settings of A E Housman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’. Among his unpublished music is a wonderful setting of the ICEL texts of the Mass, written in the last years of his life. It is amazing to me that it never became more widely known, for it is much better than the stuff which became the staple musical diet for forty years. Most of these settings are either boring, or embarassingly dated. By contrast, White’s setting is full of good tunes, singable by the people, and with a great organ accompaniment. My guess is that it would adapt to the new translation without much difficulty. Any offers?
I also have a setting of ‘Jesus in thy dear Sacrament’ for soloist and (unaccompanied?) four part choir. I’ve never heard it sung, though on the piano it sounds wonderful. I have only a Banda machine copy!
Len White brought a freshness and lightness – and an Englishness – to the music at Willesden Green, which is in contrast to the earlier choir books with their heavy adaptations of Gounod and Mozart to Cranmer’s words!
Although we can and do enjoy the great celebrations of the Ordinariate – the Walsingham Pilgrimage and Solemn Evening Prayer at Spanish Place – it is going to be in our groups and parishes that our contribution to music and worship is going to be of most effect. I argued in my last post for a truly Catholic (and catholic) approach to our music. We rule (almost) nothing out – from plainsong to Graham Kendrick – as we lift our hearts and voices, singing with the angels in praise of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.