Terry, Richard Runciman

Composer

b Ellington, nr Ashington, Northumb 1865, d Kensington, W London, Easter Day 1938. Having moved to South Shields as a boy, he played the parish church organ for midweek events at the age of 11. This gave him a lasting fear of church bells, for then ‘…when they stopped I knew the awful moment had arrived for the voluntary, and was invariably seized with stage fright’. School in S Shields, St Alban’s, Battersea Grammar Sch and St Catherine’s Soc, Oxford (1887). In 1889, having won a choral scholarship to King’s Coll Cambridge (where C V Stanford qv was Prof of Music), he founded the CU Music Club focused on chamber music and was music critic for The Cambridge Review. Now FRCO but without graduating he accepted an organ appointment at Elstow Sch nr Bedford in 1890, then at St John’s Cathedral Antigua, Leeward Islands, 1892–93. He returned to the UK after a bout of malaria, and after brief school posts at Margate and Leatherhead he became a Roman Catholic in 1896. Another short stay at St Dominic’s Newcastle was followed by 5 years at Downside Coll and Abbey as organist and music teacher, then 24 at London’s Westminster Cathedral, still under construction, as Director of Music, until 1924. While there he achieved a high standard of choral music and edited the first official RC hymn-book in English, The Westminster Hymnal of 1912, ‘The only collection authorized by the hierarchy of England and Wales’. He resigned, however, after being criticised for his over-bold choice of music. E Caswall (qv) and F W Faber were the main sources of words; Terry’s Preface admits what many editors do not, that some ‘bad tunes’ are included because of their ‘pious associations’; elsewhere he complained (in 1917) of ‘the prevalent atmosphere of insincerity and complacent second-ratedness…It is possible in the world of vocal music for sheer incompetence to rise to the top of the tree’. His other publications included editions of Calvin’s 1539 Strasburg Psalter a Scots Psalter, and in 1933, Two Hundred Folk Carols, a collection of 11 pamphlets in which many Basque and other older pieces were recovered for use (but which never enjoyed the all-round success of The Oxford Book of Carols; also a volume of sea shanties (including the word ‘rock’, used a century earlier with its 1960s meaning) and much liturgical music. He conducted the Western Madrigal Soc, examined for the Univs of Birmingham and Ireland (National Univ) and in Australia, and taught at Trinity Coll of Music in London. In Catholic Hymns (3rd edn, A E Tozer, 1898) he is represented by 2 texts and 13 tunes. Hon DMus (Durham) 1911; knighted 1922. Nos.236=620, 536=809=821.

Tunes and arrangements by Terry, Richard Runciman

Tune Name
Billing
Highwood