History of this work
Opus 93 "City in the West" was composed in 1936, when the composer was already ill. Its first performance (and broadcast) took place in 1937 at the Colston Hall in Bristol under the baton of the work's dedicatee Arthur Warrell. Bernard Naylor then arranged a performance at Oxford in 1939, but it was not heard again until 1984 when Richard Hickox and the Northern Sinfonia performed it in Hexham Abbey during the Hexham Festival.
"City in the West" refers to Bristol, the birthplace of Cyril Rootham and his family home until he moved to Cambridge as an undergraduate. The poem was written by CBR's son Jasper Rootham, who at that time was a young civil servant (see 1938 photo in the National Portrait Gallery). Jasper explained his motivation in the sleeve note to the 1986 Richard Hickox recording:
"I wrote the poem because I knew that my father was slowly dying of progressive muscular dystrophy and I hoped to direct his energy into composition, where he still had much to give. [...] The music is better than the words of course, but I like to think that the stimulus of doing it - and hearing it - spurred his mind and spirit towards their last heroic effort, the Second Symphony [...]"
The sheet music for this work is not yet back in print. But we can tell you that typesetting of the vocal score, full score and orchestral parts is now complete, so we hope to publish during 2019.
By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge
We are very grateful to St John's College for allowing us to consult the original manuscript, thus enabling us to produce an authentic and scholarly edition. It is interesting to note that this manuscript is not in CBR's handwriting: the work was probably dictated by the composer from his sick-bed.
Hickox recording to download
Don't miss the chance to hear the 1986 Richard Hickox recording in full CD quality. You can download "City in the West" from Presto Classical in FLAC (lossless) or MP3 format:
• Cyril Rootham Op.93 "City in the West"
From the Dictionary of Organs and Organists 1912 edition:
"WARRELL, ARTHUR SYDNEY, 27, Cotham Vale, Bristol. Born at Farmborough, near Bath, 1882. Educated at Farmborough School, and Merchant Venturers' College, Bristol. Organist and Choirmaster St. Matthias', 1900-1 ; St. Agnes', 1901-5 ; St. Alban's, 1905 ; and St. Nicholas', since 1905, all of Bristol. Teacher of Music, University of Bristol Elementary Training Department (Men), 1909."
We know that Warrell composed a setting of "A Lyke Wake Dirge", published by OUP in 1932 but long out of print. Warrell's setting in eight parts for unaccompanied double choir is inscribed to Cyril Rootham. In dedicating "City in the West" to Arthur Warrell, CBR was returning the compliment.