Saturday, 21 April 2018

Reprimand of James Coleman, 30 July 1906

Having written about James Coleman's mysterious reprimand, I have been given a copy of the document which had been safely deposited in the Cathedral. It is a typed document, and is  transcribed here in full.

in the Chapter House, July 30 1906

I have summoned you before the Chapter to receive an official reprimand and I have written down what I have to say on behalf of the Canons and myself.

The Dean read the following -

I can recall no offence on the part of a Vicar, at least since that which led to the degradation and expulsion of the late sub-chanter, which has caused more distress to myself and the Canons than your conduct at Evensong on Saturday last and what led to it.

There was a foreshadowing of something wrong when before the beginning of the service you left the vestry in your cassock, and put on your surplice most carelessly, while the Cathedral Body were waiting; it was so unusual as to call for observation. Then during the anthem you knocked and pushed a large music book off your desk almost immediately behind a chorister who was singing a solo and might easily have been interrupted and disconcerted by the noise.

This circumstance led me to keep my eyes upon you till the close of the service, and what I saw, I felt, would make it necessary for me at once to ask for an explanation, but I saw that you left the choir when the hymn began and you did not return to the vestry till sometime after.

I asked the Canon in Residence, who sat near you, if he observed your irreverent behaviour, and be said that he had and that it as very marked and that he could not doubt that you were under the influence of drink.

I [then] found you outside the building and requested you to follow me to the deanery. I saw immediately that the Canon was right and after speaking of your behaviour I said you had been drinking. Now if you had admitted it, as it was a first offence, I should have been contented to deal with you privately and personally.

But what followed was so serious that official notice became necessary. In the first place you denied that you had been drinking, not only once but twice, though I begged you not to increase the offence by falsehood; and only when I told you that I had incontestable evidence from your breath as you passed me at the door, you confessed that you had met a friend and had been taking Brandy and soda, but that you had only taken two glasses, that you had been under a doctor for 3 weeks and supposed that being very weak it had affected you. You had forgotten that only 2 days before when I had asked you how you were you said, without hesitation, "OK! Quite well now, I am going to begin lawn tennis again".

All this was very unsatisfactory but what followed was almost worse. "Why," you asked, "do you single me out for drinking, when there are other vicars far worse than I am? I know that they are. I can prove it. I know one who has taken 8 brandies and soda though I have only taken 2! I am had up while they are left alone".

To try to exculpate yourself by bringing a secret charge against your brother vicars behind their backs shewed me yet more clearly in what state you were. You could only have done it under the influence of drink. I am thankful that it did not happen that you were put down for a solo; the result must have caused a scandal and with that large congregation, a "public scandal".

We have been unanimous in our wish to deal with you as leniently as we can consistently with our duty to the Cathedral Body and the necessity of your brother vicars knowing that you have been officially reprimanded. God grant that you may lay these words seriously to heart and be able to recover that good opinion which for the time you have forfeited.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

James Coleman (Lay Vicar 1900-1942) and The City Music Publishing Co., Lichfield

Included with the memories that George Greaves sent was a copy of an anthem by James Coleman, published in 1934, who George remembers being the Senior Lay Vicar. This small detail led to a little further research, and two strands to this post. Firstly, about James Coleman, and secondly about the anthem and its publisher.

James Coleman was born in West Bromwich in 1876 and came from Southwell to Lichfield as Lay Vicar in 1900, where he remained until Sunday 20 September 1942 when he died suddenly on his way to the Cathedral.

Beyond the record of his installation into the Lay Vicar's Stall belonging to the Prebend of Eccleshall on 13 July 1900, and a note in October 1919 that the absence of a third Bass Lay Vicar - or his deputy - meant that £14-11-0 should be paid to both Mr J Coleman and Mr H Parker to recompense them for the extra work they would have to have done, Coleman appears to have drawn little attention from the Cathedral authorities. This may be down to the story behind a note in the Chapter Act books from 28 September 1906 which records that "The Dean reported that he had been obliged to summon James Coleman, a Vicar Choral, before Chapter to receive a formal reprimand; the circumstances are embodied in a document contained in a sealed envelope deposited with the Muniments of the Chapter".

A colleague, Frederic Hodgson, describes Coleman's voice as a "real basso-cantante, rich and voluminous" and his singing as being "refined and polished", and outside Lichfield, he was well known and his name appears nearly monthly in The Musical Times, in round ups of local performances and in the listings of singers available for work. His advertisements are regularly more extensive than others, and quote glowing reviews of his performances from both national and regional newspapers. There are around a hundred of these in the archives of The Musical Times and are too extensive to reproduce here. However, The Musical Times did print his obituary in November 1942:
JAMES COLEMAN, a baritone well known in the Midlands, aged sixty-six. He was vicar-choral of Lichfield Cathedral from 1900 to his death. During the last war he conducted the Whittington Garrison Choral Society, and recently he directed the newly-formed Lichfield Operatic Society.
Alongside his performing, he also appears to have been a prolific composer as the final page of the copy of the anthem he gave to George Greaves shows. The copy of the anthem, a setting of the first two verses of Psalm 139, O Lord, thou hast searched me out, includes an inscription reading 'To Master Greaves, with the composer's best wishes, Oct. 10/34'. It is possible download a scanned copy of the original printed anthem, and a clearer typeset edition for the musically curious.

Moving away from Coleman himself, the last page of the scan mentions that the score was published by "Lichfield : The City Music Publishing Co.". My immediate (albeit cynical) assumption was that this was some manner of musical vanity press, but a little exploration online - courtesy of library catalogues and Google - suggests it was a more significant establishment, although I am told that Coleman was involved in music publishing... The searching is, in no way, exhaustive, so any further information about the company would be welcome.

The earliest reference to The City Music Publishing Co is a book by a W Kelly, entitled Blackpool, published in 1913. However, the earliest musical references are a copy of a song, My hope by Isabel Ashforde, published around 1915 and In a Sylvan Glade, a "caprice for the pianoforte" from 1916 by Samuel Bath; it is worth noting a female composer being represented in 1915. One Caroline F Boddy is also listed amongst their publications as the principal composer (alongside a H Brearley) of a song entitled The Happy Little House in 1918. A 1920 piano work, Floramyne by Gilbert Stacey, includes an address for the company at 7 Southampton Row, London, WC1.

There are various records of Coleman's work listed against their publications, but the most significant inclusions in the company's catalogue (especially in the Cathedral Music world) are various editions of the Durham Cathedral Chant Book by Philip Ames and Conrad Eden, published between 1939 and 1962. The City Music Publishing Co. does not, therefore, appear to have been solely for the promotion of local talent or restricted to the early part of the century.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Memories of Life as a Chorister 1934-1937 from George Greaves

It is always delightful to be contacted by individuals with their own memories of their time at Lichfield. Aged 95, George Greaves got in touch a few months ago to share his experiences as a chorister from the age of 11 in January 1934 to August 1937. His recollections are reproduced here as sent.

I was a boarder and shared a dormitory with five other boys in the care of Mr C R Bailey and his wife in a house in Dam Street opposite the West end of Minster Pool; Mr Bailey was the only teacher. The private choir school was also in Dam Street, behind the boarding house, and consisted of a classroom on the ground floor, a playroom on the first floor, and a recreation area outside. There were approximately 24 day boys, but the boarders were the backbone of the choir; I became head boy and No. 1 Cantoris.

We sang at services each morning and afternoon on weekdays, apart from Tuesday afternoon, with occasional exceptions for Feast Days and Festivals. There were full choral services on Saturday and Sunday. The three hours' worship on Good Friday was shared between the boys.

Of the 30 or so choir school boys, weekday services were only attended by six on each side, Decani and Cantoris, along with three Lay Vicars of each part; Mr James Coleman was the Senior Lay Vicar during my time. The choir boys were selected by region-wide voice trials which were open to all.

Bank Holiday services were especially well attended, and the congregations were treated to show pieces anthems from oratorios including Messiah and Israel in Egypt.

On weekdays, purple cassocks were worn, and red cassocks were worn on Sundays and Feast Days.

The choir was regarded as one of the country's best, and broadcast on the National Service in February 1934.

Practices were held most days for the boys, and for the whole choir on Fridays. Thursday Evensongs were unaccompanied, with notes being given on a small harmonium.

The Precentor was Canon Moncrief, assisted by Canon Hardy, the subchanter, 'the voice'. The Organist and Choirmaster was Ambrose Porter, FRCO, who lived in Darwin's old house on the border of the Close.

The boys' school day from was 8.00am until 5.00pm with a half day off on both Tuesday and Saturday.

Boys' practices were held in the Song School in the North-West corner of the Close. Although there was the "Cottage" organ there, a piano was used to accompany the rehearsals. The "Cottage" organ was a constant source of fun for the boys, and annoyance to Mr Lott (one of the visiting organists) because of the interchangeable pipes. The other visiting organists included Mr Morgan, a fiery Welshman, and Mr Pettigrew, who was later heard of in the army in Africa.

When I first started, the Bishop was the Rt Rev Kempthorne who was succeeded by Bishop Barnes. The Bishop selected two of the choristers to hold his bejewelled robe, for which they were given a shilling; I was lucky enough to be chosen on a couple of occasions.

There were small Christmas parties for the boarders (as we never went home at Christmas, unlike the day boys), and these were given by the Precentor, Subchanter and others. Canon Hardy gave us a rhyme about someone putting up shutters and sitting in the shop, which he would recite at breakneck speed with us all waiting for him to get the vowels wrong.

Most of the choristers were the exact age to be called up - in my case, to volunteer for service - in the Second World War, soon after leaving. I served in the Royal Navy from August 1941 to August 1946.

I do remember a memorial board in the classroom at school with the names of the choristers who had served in World War One, with Maltese crosses beside the names of those who had did.

The photograph is of me in January 1934, when I was aged 11, when I started in the choir. I got in by the skin of my teeth, as I was born in February 1922 and had I been 12 years old they would not have taken me!

George Greaves, aged 11 in 1934 (Chorister, 1934-1937)
George Greaves, aged 11 in 1934 (Chorister, 1934-1937)