Sunday 9 August 2009

Frederic Herbert Wood: Scenes from Kent

Recently I was reading through a short essay on organ music by Charles F. Waters and came across a section about music reflecting lines of poetry and prose. Reference was made to a suite by Alec Rowley called The Four Winds. I have this piece somewhere in my collection of organ music, so perhaps more about that piece another day. But it was the following paragraph that caught my eye. Waters wrote: - “The pictorial path was pursued further by Frederic H. Wood (1880-1963) in his suite Scenes in Kent, published by Stainer and Bell in 1924. The four movements comprise and expressive movement for Aylesford Bridge, a rapid moto perpetuo for Allington Lock, a romantic soloed piece for Orchard Blossom, and a carillon for Rochester Bells.”
These are pieces that I have neither heard, nor heard of. Wood followed up the success of this pieces with further suites depicting scenes in other parts of the country:–

Scenes from Northumberland Op.25 (1925): North Tynedale, Cilurnum, Allendale, Borcovicus
Scenes on the Wye (1926): Rhayader, Monmouth, Tintern, Symonds Yat
Scenes on the Downs Op.29 (1929): Sunrise on Stonehenge, A Down's Morris, Evening on the Downs, Morning on the Downs

Frederic H Wood was the organist at Blackpool Parish Church for 45 years. He composed a great deal of music for liturgical and recital purposes. Yet as Philip Scowcroft has pointed out, it is the topographical suites that seem to be his musical trademark. Scowcroft suggests that these Suites are “very much in the style of Coates ... contemporary orchestral music and perhaps ranging further than Coates in a geographical sense. Finally, he notes that “The first and last of these suites have been recorded recently; surprisingly they do not appear ever to have been orchestrated. If they were they might have achieved greater popularity.”

At the earliest opportunity I am going to download the two Suites from Amazon and I will then be in a better position to report back as to whether Philip Scowcroft is justified in his enthusiasm. Something tells me that I will be impressed.

Finally in Wood’s obituary in the Musical Times, Peter Dickinson has pointed out that composer’s “published organ music gave him great satisfaction because the photographs used on the covers were his own. The acquisition of the sheet music seems to me to be a priority.


Unknown said...

Another gem of information about an obscure composer. The titles are wonderfully evocative of place and mood. I hope that we will eventually get to hear Wood's music. I've searched for recordings but find nothing -- yet. Thank you for an enlightening introduction to FHWood.

Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful recording by David A. Liddle of these superb pieces played at St. Ignatius in New York.
Guild Music GMCD7149.

Anonymous said...

I wonder - is this Frederic H Wood, author of books on ancient Egypt? ( such as: Ancient Egypt Speaks, After Thirty Centuries, The Egyptian Miracle )

Anonymous said...

Yes. He was my great grand father.

Michael Keays said...

Well, I don't seem to be the only one who has just discovered this superb music. As organist of Aylesford Church, I am particularly pleased to have found "Aylesford Bridge", which I will be introducing in a recital in a couple of weeks time. The only way I could get hold of the music was as a Stainer & Bell reprint (expensive, and not brilliant quality, but better than nothing! - Sadly no photos of any significance on the front though). Anyone any ideas though why he came to depict Kent in this way?

Robert Wood said...

Dr Frederick Herbert Wood was my grandfather. My father was his only son who travelled to Australia in the late 1920s and stayed here. I would love to know more about this research into his music. As a child I remember that we had some of his music at home but I do not know what may have happened to it, perhaps my sisters may know more.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of orchestration may have been the time he spent on his other great interest, spiritualism. He did write a number of books on the subject and worked with a medium called Rosemary who also lived in Blackpool. One of my sisters was a bit interested in this subject and may have some of his books.

Robert Wood

marcia bauman said...

To Robert Wood: In 1982 I was given a copy of the original handwritten notes of sessions with Rosemary, including documentation in the margins, etc. I received them from someone at the Center for Intuition in San Francisco, which no longer exists. I came across the notebook while digging in some old cartons and would like to know more about the people involved. These particular notes had mostly to do with Egyptian music, and someone, I believe your grandfather, notated the themes Rosemary sang during her sessions. This notebook was given to me with the request to verify, if possible, that the notated themes authentically represented ancient Egyptian music. I feel as though I have in my possession a valuable document and wonder if you would be interested in a copy or know of anyone who would be.