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Martin Shaw (1875–1958)

Martin Shaw was born in 1875. Both he and his younger brother Geoffrey studied with Stanford, Martin at the Royal College of Music, and Geoffrey at Cambridge. They made considerable contributions to the raising of standards in English Church Music. Martin’s knowledge and research were acknowledged by The English Hymnal, and he was co-editor of the music for Songs of Praise and the Oxford Book of Carols along with Vaughan Williams and Percy Dearmer. This involved much research, reinstating the original versions of tunes such as The Coventry Carol and discovering others, to one of which Eleanor Farjeon wrote the familiar words ‘Morning has broken’. Perhaps Martin’s most lasting memorial in this field will prove to be his Anglican Folk Mass, a unison setting in plain song style which for many has ousted even Merbecke as the basic setting for the Communion Service.

Though Martin Shaw’s reputation was primarily made as an organist and church musician he started life in the theatre, working with Gordon Craig and Isadora Duncan, and composed some successful theatre music, such as Mr. Pepys. In 1900 he founded the Purcell Operatic Society to promote a production of Dido and Aeneas. This was of considerable importance in the revival of interest in Purcell’s music which was at that time little known. Though he composed over a hundred songs, this side of his career is now almost forgotten; and it is to be hoped that this volume will serve to bring to the attention of teachers and performers a body of work which is always well written and satisfying both to play and to sing.
Michael Pilkington, London 1988
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