a memorandum by Richard Halsey, Academical Clerk 1965/66.
One of the many memorable aspects of being in Dr Bernard Rose's choir was to encounter such a very broad repertoire of choral music. The music of Dr Haldane Campbell Stewart (Informator Choristarum, 1918-1938 and University Choragus, 1927-37) was a particular treat.
Stewart's music is probably little-known today outside Magdalen. Yet, with its beautiful melodic strands set within a richly chromatic idiom, it surely deserves a wider audience. My chapel music lists of 1965/66 include the following pieces by Stewart:
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C sharp minor Responses On This Day Earth Shall Ring (Christmas Carol).
The latter piece is probably his best-known composition. There were also, as I recall, several excellent psalm-chants.
In March 1966 the choir recorded a recital for the BBC, in a series featuring individual cathedral and collegiate choirs, which was introduced by John Betjeman, entitled, I think, “In Quires and Places...” The programme included Stewart's superb anthem Veni Sancte Spiritus, which was subsequently published by Novello in 1968 in an edition by Bernard Rose. Stewart had himself conducted the piece in the 'Singing by the Choir in the Cloisters' on May 20, 1934 - was this its first performance? He also repeated it at a recital in Chapel on 17 March 1935.
On his retirement in August 1938, Dr Stewart was interviewed by the BBC in a half-hour programme broadcast on 24 August in the series “The Musician as the Gramophone” which was possibly a forerunner of Desert Island Discs. He was described in the Radio Times as Dr H. Campbell Stewart.
Yet in Oxford we hear of Dr H. C. Stewart rather than, say, Dr Haldane Stewart. The clue to the apparent variety may lie in the fact that he had a contemporary named Charles Hylton Stewart (1884-1932), who was always known as Hylton Stewart and was successively organist of Rochester and Chester Cathedrals and of St George's Chapel, Windsor, as well as being a prolific composer of church music.
There was clearly potential for confusion in the public mind, with the two Stewarts, H.C. and C.H., in two famous organ lofts. The 'H. Campbell Stewart' was perhaps an attempt to make a clear distinction. As if to heighten the potential for confusion, Grove tells us that Hylton Stewart was educated at Magdalen College School! He was surely a border, his father being Precentor at Chester Cathedral, but was he also a chorister at Magdalen? At any rate, he later won an organ scholarship to Peterhouse, Cambridge.
Both Stewarts seem to have had most of their choral works published by O.U.P., which is perhaps what lures the editor of the BBC Choral and Opera Catalogue of 1967 into an unfortunate trap. H.C. Stewart's name is omitted, but under the heading of C. Hylton Stewart appears H.C.'s “ On This Day Earth Shall Ring”. The better composer of the two is denied credit for his most famous piece!
Even O.U.P.'s flyer for the publication in 1991 of the Te Deum which Dr Stewart submitted for his Mus. Doc. degree in 1919 is not without error. His dates are given as 1868 to 1932. I am unable to verify the first of these, but the second must be wrong as he did not retire until 1938.
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An interesting perspective of Dr Stewart was given to me in 2000 by an old friend (and originally neighbour) of mine, Mr Reginald Lister, who died in 2001. Born in 1913, Lister went from Dulwich College to Oriel in 1932, to read Modern Languages. He was a fine cellist and was at once invited to join the Dons' Quartet, a rehearsal group which met on Thursday afternoons in Holywell Music Room. (It existed under the auspices of the University Music Club, in whose concerts he also played.)
It was surely rare for an undergraduate - and a freshman at that - to be asked to join this distinguished group. As to how Lister was invited, he suggested to me that the contact may have been a previous violinist member of the group, with whom he had been at school. Another possibility must be that the link was through (Sir) Jack Westrup, himself an old Alleynian, who returned to Dulwich to teach Classics in 1928 and encouraged much music-making.
Once Lister had joined the quartet, its membership remained stable for the rest of his undergraduate years (1932-1935). The other members were:-
Thomas Rayson (first violin: Dr Opie (second violin) : Dr H. C. Stewart (viola).
It can quickly be spotted that Magdalen men comprised half the quartet! In addition to its versatile Organist, Magdalen was also represented by a Dr Opie, who was a Lecturer in Economics. Thomas Rayson was an architect, responsible for some of the better shops in Cornmarket, and, according to Pevsner, for the design of some council houses in Chipping Camden, inter alia.
The quartet had a regular coach. Until 1932 it had been Ernest Tomlinson, a professional viola player and quite possibly the same person as the composer of the well-known Suite of English Folk Dances. He was succeeded by André Mangeot, the violinist who led the International String Quartet, and was to coach various chamber groups in Oxford.
Dr Stewart lived at Wayside, Hinksey Hill, and in a letter dated 28 October (presumably 1932) he invited Reginald Lister to supper. The date suggests that little time was wasted in welcoming this Oriel freshman socially. Although a Scotsman, Dr Stewart had no Scottish accent, as Lister recalls, and looked more like a country gentleman than a musician; despite a voluble style he had an overriding modesty. He was still at that time a keen tennis player - one of several sports, according to the Radio Times, in which he had excelled.
Dorothy Stewart, his wife, was a cello teacher, and there was more than a hint at the dinner table that Lister might wish to take lessons from her - an offer which he somehow tactfully resisted. It appears that she was also something of a composer. The programme of 'Singing by the Choir in the Cloisters' of 26 May 1935 includes her Song (for Five voices and Violin), the setting of a poem entitled 'Slow Spring' by Katharine Tynan.
Their daughter Jean Stewart, who later married an engineer, was a professional viola player. It was to her that Ralph Vaughan Williams dedicated his second String Quartet, having ensured that it had an outstanding viola part in it.
Within the Dons' Quartet itself Reginald Lister recalled an equally warm welcome. He had had little experience of quartet playing, and here he was, in his first month at Oxford, seated with players of much greater accomplishment. It was a bit intimidating, he confessed, but the music selected initially was deliberately not too taxing for the cellist. He realised that he had been firmly accepted into the group when a Haydn quartet was chosen which opened with a cello solo.
The germ of the above memorandum was my own interest in Dr H.C. Stewart's music, but it was activated by my discovery in 2000 that an old friend had known him. Reginald Lister's widow, Mary, has passed to the various papers and programmes, which I enclose with this memorandum.
Various people at Magdalen may well be interested to see them - Christine Ferdinand, Bill Ives, Robin Darwell-Smith; and elsewhere perhaps Susan Wollenberg. Is it high time that some young musicologist studied Stewart's two decades at Magdalen. Perhaps that is already happening! If not (or in the meantime) maybe there is material for an article in the Magdalen College Record.
Whilst I claim no copyright, I would wish to be consulted (on behalf of Mary Lister, too) if at some point anyone at Magdalen or elsewhere in Oxford wishes to make use of the material.
Richard Hasley, MA, Dip Ed, ARCO (CHM). 26 July 2003