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Fantasy on Old Christmas Carols

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Blackburn Cathedral

Uploaded by: Agnus_Dei (12/21/17)
Composer: Blair, Hugh
Sample Producer: Lavender Audio
Sample Set: Hereford Cathedral Willis Organ
Software: Hauptwerk IV
Genre: Romantic
Hugh Blair (25 May 1864 – 22 July 1932) was an English musician, composer and organist. Born in Worcester, he was the son of Rev. Robert Hugh Blair, who founded Worcester College for the Blind in 1866. A chorister at Worcester Cathedral and a pupil at The King's School, Worcester, Blair was organ scholar at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. 1886, Mus.B. 1887, M.A. 1896 and Mus.D. 1906.

He was Organist of Worcester Cathedral from 1895 to 1897, having been Acting Organist before that time. Edward Elgar dedicated his cantata "The Black Knight" to Blair, who was conductor of the Worcester Festival Choral Society.

Worcester Cathedral Library contains copies of Blair's compositions, and his splendid Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in B minor for double choir is in the repertoire of every cathedral choir, and is still often performed and recorded.

I found this, and many other interesting things at Rousseau Media Music:

There you can read more about Hugh Blair and his troubled life.

I always find it fascinating to see what carols were "popular" at the time a piece was written. In this work, which is big despite the fact that it isn't all that long, the carols chosen by Blair are: "God rest ye merry, gentlemen", "Good King Wenceslas", and "A Virgin unspotted." (There were MANY "Virgin unspotted tunes around. This one is one of the more well-known examples.)

Blair skillfully and tastefully "blends and joins" the three carols, and the parts flow seamlessly into the next section.

This "Virgin unspotted" section is undoubtedly the hardest, as there is a lot of "legato stuff," and all of it moving at a brisk "Allegro moderato."

The score is attached below, as well as a photo of a young Hugh Blair, an older Blair with the choir of Worcester Cathedral, and a photo of the cathedral.

Tomorrow: "Christmas Meditation" - William Faulkes

"Christmas is coming" - H. Walford Davies (my own arrangement for organ)
Performance: Live
Recorded in: Stereo
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