Musings from the Artistic Director

Philip Cannon, requiescat in pace

I heard this week that English composer Philip Cannon died on Christmas Eve.  His widow Jane sent me an e-mail from his account with the sad news.

I first encountered the music of Philip about ten years ago, and decided to perform a large 3-movement choral work of his called “Son of God.”  Finding that the work was out of print, and unable to locate anyone who had the authority to allow photocopying the single score I possessed, it occurred to me to see if I could contact the composer directly.  Finding an e-mail address online, I sent a hesitant query and was surprised and pleased to receive a reply from the composer himself!  This initiated an acquaintance that grew into a friendship, and MB and I met him and Jane for lunch one year in England.

Philip had quite a distinguished career.  Born in 1929, he attended the Royal Academy of Music, and later studied with Hindemith and Vaughan Williams in the 1950’s.  He was commissioned several times to compose works for the Three Choirs Festival (Lord of Light and The Temple), and once by H. M. the Queen for a Te Deum to celebrate the quincentenary of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.  The BBC also commissioned him to write a symphony (Son of Man) to celebrate Britain’s entry into the EU (one wonders whether the rights for this symphony reverted to the composer upon Brexit!).  Also on this distinguished list of commissioners is St. Martin’s Chamber Choir in 2011 to compose a short choral work called “Praise” (I have scanned the last page of the manuscript, with his dedication, and attached it to this e-mail).

In our Shakespeare concert in November, St. Martin’s performed his “Lullaby,” which occasioned our final exchange of e-mails, as I wanted to tell him how much I and the singers enjoyed the piece.  In that e-mail I also said MB and I would be in Britain this coming May/June, and he replied suggesting we meet for lunch again, which was enthusiastically accepted by me.  He died of cancer, however, a month after this, aged 87.

I am honored by the brief connection I had with him, and was privileged to sit with him and his wife in a Buckinghamshire pub to hear their reminiscences of Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Rubbra, and others.

Philip Cannon, requiescat in pace.