logo Practical Dreamers

The  Vicar of Dibley  theme et al

Howard Goodall:  choral works

I learned about this CD from the e-mail correspondence of music librarians.   Someone in America was seeking the composer of the opening music to the  Vicar of Dibley  TV series,  a setting of the 23rd Psalm,  and said that only the name Howard Goodall appeared in the credits.  A British librarian replied with information about Howard Goodall,  who was indeed the composer,  and gave the details about the CD,  which I promptly ordered.

Its cover features a painting by Mark Ranshaw,  in slightly cubist style,  of choir singers in white surplices over red cassocks,  standing amidst blue cathedral columns and arches.  HOWARD GOODALL,  CHORAL WORKSTHE CHOIR OF CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL OXFORD,  STEPHEN DARLINGTON (conductor).

I was somewhat surprised by the corner inset:  "Includes themes from Mr Bean & the Vicar of Dibley"  -  OK,  that might increase the recording's popular appeal,  but wasn't that making light of serious music which had been taken over and used by television?   How wrong I was!   Howard Goodall composed the beautiful setting of the 23rd Psalm especially for the TV series,  and likewise the Mr Bean theme.

The booklet states that Howard Goodall,  a former chorister at New College and music scholar at Christ Church,  Oxford,  has written musicals,  and themes for Blackadder,  the Red Dwarf,  and The Borrowers,  in addition to the Vicar of Dibley and Mr Bean.   He also writes liturgical music in the English choral tradition,  as well as serious secular music.


This recording has examples of all these styles.   The first work is  Missa Aedis Christi,  a mass setting commissioned by The Friends of Christ Church Cathedral,  1993.   Goodall notes that while there are masterworks like the Byrd,  Palestrina,  or Stravinsky masses,  he was encouraged by the fact that there is very little written to be sung in Latin today.  "Latin is a superlative language for singing,  with its wide open vowels and Italianate consonants".   His musical inspiration for the  Sanctus  of the mass was the evening bells heard in southern France  -  "the sounds from the distant bells of other towns mingled with the nearby ones of the exquisite 13th century cathedral in Embrun".   Thus from the  "Sanctus outwards"  the whole  Mass  emerged.

In Memoriam Anne Frank,   written for the 50th anniversary of Anne Frank's death,  includes settings to three different texts:  "Remember me when I am gone away"  by Christina Rosetti,  "North west passage"  by Robert Louis Stevenson,  and words from Richard Lovelace.

Likewise the work  They Were Not Here  commemorates VE Day with settings to two poems  -  by David Geraint Jones and Shakespeare.   Goodall states that  "the sentiments were complicated,  mixed ones for people living in another society and time,  and  [in both works he]  chose more than one text in an attempt to juxtapose the different elements and emotions".

Between the above works are the  23rd Psalm  of the Vicar of Dibley,  and the  Ecce homo  of Mr Bean.

Goodall writes:  "My intention with the Dibley theme had always been to treat the series as if it were not a comedy,  and write a piece of popular church music that might have a further life".   It is also a longer composition than is heard in the series.   (No,  we don't know if sheet music is available.)

The above comment brought us enlightenment from Susan Lewis of England,  to whom we are most grateful.

Psalm 23   by Howard Goodall,   published by Novello Publishing Limited.  
      SATB with organ accompaniment.

Copyright 1995 Noel Gay Music Co Ltd, 
      8/9 Frith Street, London, W1V 5TZ, England.

Exclusive distributors:  Music Sales Limited, 
      Newmarket Road,  Bury St Edmunds,  Suffolk,
      IP33 3YB, England.

Addendum:   See our Feedback page
for an internet purchase address.

In  Mr Bean  you never caught the words?   "Ecce homo qui est faba.   Vale homo qui est faba."  (Behold the man who is a bean.   Farewell O man who is a bean)!


The final works on this recording are the Marlborough canticles,  settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis,  which Goodall claims are influenced both by the old 'chestnuts' of Stanford,  Wesley,  Walmisley et al.,  and by gospel and modern dance rhythms.

And the music?   Beautiful voices of the choir and soloists of Christ Church Cathedral,  the organ playing of David Goode,  with the accompaniment of a string quintet,  and the addition,  in two works,  of the Sherbourne School for Girls Chamber Singers.   The clear tones and lovely music you hear from the best of English choirs.

A highly pleasurable and also a thought-provoking production.

Oh,  and the accompanying booklet contains the texts with English translations,  and programme notes by Richard Coles and Howard Goodall.

Joan Robertson


Howard Goodall.  Choral Works.
ASV digital. CD DCA 1028.
1998  ASV Ltd.

Howard Goodall responds – 23rd May, 2002

Dear Dunedin Methodists

What a superb site!
Thank you for including my  'Vicar of Dibley'  Psalm 23  in Joan Robertson's kind and informative article on my Choral Works CD.  If any of your visitors/members are interested,  I have a fairly comprehensive website with details of my music & broadcasts.  In particular,  readers might be stimulated/provoked/challenged/tickled by my article  'Music & Christian Worship in the 21st Century',  originally delivered as a lecture at Regent's Park Theological College,  Oxford University,  which can be found in the 'biography' section of the site.

Best wishes and greetings to all
Howard Goodall

Howard Goodall website: <http://www.howardgoodall.co.uk>



>>>   Home Page


>>>   Site Index