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   Chapter 6 RICHARD DEERING

Twelve Good Musicians By Frederick Bridge Characters: 16219

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


1580 (?)-1630

In considering the careers and works of the first five musicians on my list of twelve, I have, it is true, been treating of men whose names are to be found in all musical histories. But of the next name on my list I am able to say I am on comparatively new ground. There is nothing so surprising to me as the universal neglect-nay, I may even use the word disdain-with which musical historians of many periods have treated the name of Richard Deering. In common with most people of my own age I knew very little about this composer, and certainly in common with, I venture to say, all my contemporaries, I never heard a note of his music until a few years ago.

The story of my awakening to the real merits of this admirable composer is simple. Looking over the music in the Chapter Library at Westminster, I found among many fine collections of Madrigals-original copies, mostly published in the 16th and early part of the 17th centuries-two sets of Latin Motets in 5 and 6 parts by Richard Deering. They were bound up in covers made out of an illuminated MS. On looking at the bindings, our late Dean, Dr Armitage Robinson (always interested in the Library, and also, I may add, in my musical researches) found that they were part of the Wedding Service of the fourteenth century. The binding was promptly taken off, the Deering books rebound, and handed on to me. I proceeded to score some of the first book-published in 1617-and had not done many bars before it was plain I was indeed about to unearth a treasure. Full of beautiful Harmony and Contrapuntal devices with examples of melodic progressions, new and original, these works were speedily brought to a hearing at my Gresham Lectures, and, with as little delay as possible, edited (with English translations), published, and introduced into the Abbey Services. Since then many Cathedrals and great Churches have used them. The Bach Choir has performed some of them, and Deering's fame has, I hope, been re-established!

I may say, before proceeding to give details of Deering's career, that nearly a hundred years ago an effort was made by a musical amateur to get these Motets scored. By a curious chance I have come into the possession of letters which passed between the owner of copies of these fine things and Mr Sale of Westminster Abbey. The owner was the Rev Thomas Streatfeild, Vicar of Chart Edge, a well-known Kentish antiquary, and he came into possession-probably at a sale of some of the old Deering books-of a set of parts of these Motets. He applied to Mr Sale (a very prominent member of the musical profession, a Lay-Vicar of Westminster Abbey and a principal singer at the "Ancient Concerts") to get these Motets scored for him. A letter from Sale's daughter apologizes for delay, and says "her father does not think it will be worth while to go to any great expense, as he has tried some parts of it (i.e. the music of the Motets) with some who are used to and admire that ancient style of music and they do not form a very high opinion of it!" Curiously enough, a few bars in score of one of the most beautiful Motets was enclosed with a note from a copyist saying that it would take much time and be very expensive. So Deering's Motets were laid to rest again for nearly 100 years. I may add Mr Sale was the music instructor to Queen Victoria when she was a child.

Mr Streatfeild's copies of the 1617 Motets (uncut!) were sold (at his death) by auction, and fetched £4 16s. 0d.

The neglect of Deering is certainly extraordinary. He was, as usual, absurdly criticized by Dr Burney, who spoke of his music as "very sober, innocent, psalmodic, dry, and uninteresting," and further he "was never able to discern in any of his works a single stroke of genius, either in his melody or modulation." And Sir Frederick Ouseley actually writes of his style as "severe and correct, but very dry"! These verdicts amaze me! They are absolutely untrue, at least as regards Deering's great works, his Motets. I question if Burney or Ouseley ever heard one of them. They may have founded their opinion upon some of his less important works, published by Playford some 30 or 40 years after Deering's death, which Playford himself does not vouch for as being certainly by Deering. And, as regards Deering's Fancies, I can hardly believe either Burney or Ouseley had any real knowledge of them, for one which I produced at a University Lecture in 1912 was of a high order of merit.

That Deering was appreciated at his proper value by his contemporaries is apparent from the way in which Peacham, in his Compleat Gentleman (1622) couples his name with others "for depth of skill and quickness of concept." Almost the only bit of information which historians tell us is that "Cromwell was very fond of his music," and that John Kingston, the organist, with two of his boys, often sang Deering's music to the Protector. The mention of "two boys" points to the Two-part Motets as being the music performed-not, of course, to the Motets for five or six voices. Mace in his Musick's Monument (1676) mentions Deering's Gloria Patri and other of his Latin settings.

I must now turn to the personal history of this good musician.

Richard Deering was descended from an ancient family-the Deerings of the County of Kent. The branch from which Richard Deering traces his descent was the one headed by William Deering of Petworth, in co. Sussex, and his wife, Eleanor Dyke. The Deering of this sketch was the son of Henry Deering of Liss, near Petworth, by the Lady Elizabeth Grey. He died in 1630.

It is stated by Anthony Wood that Deering was "bred up in Italy, where he obtained the name of a most admirable musician. After his return he practised his Faculty for some time in England, where his name being highly cried up, became after many entreaties, Organist to the English Nuns living at Brussels." It is not easy to discover anything about Deering's Italian life or work. My friend, the Rev Dr Spooner Lillingston, made some Inquiries for me in Italy, and is kind enough to write as follows:

"The Earl of Kent's family (of which Deering's mother was a member) remained Catholic for many years, and this family, half a century before, seem to have intermarried with certain of the Italian nobility. Lady Elizabeth Grey does not appear in any record of the Greys of Kent. May not Deering's mother have been of Italian extraction? Hence his Catholic religion and Italian training."

As to his Italian sojourn Dr Spooner Lillingston continues: "There is no record of his first Communion at St John Lateran, so probably he did not go to Italy until about ten years of age, all such records of First Communions made in Italy being registered at St John's Lateran." Dr Lillingston also tells us there is a record of an 8-part Motet by Deering having been performed in one of the Churches, the title being O quam Gloriosa.

That Deering studied hard and composed while in Italy seems pretty certain. Judged from an observation in his "Dedication" of the 1617 Motets it would appear that it was in Rome that he wrote them. In this dedication he speaks of having composed them in the chief city of the world. I cannot help thinking that "the chief city of the world" to Deering-a Catholic-was Rome.

Almost the first fact of which we have very certain knowledge in connection with his life in England is the "Supplication" which he made for the degree of Bachelor of Music at Oxford, in April, 1610. In answer to an inquiry, the Keeper of the Archives said that there is a record of Deering's supplication, and it is stated that his plea is granted "providing he shall have composed a work of eight parts for the next 'Act.'" Dr Scott, the learned custodian of our Abbey Muniments for many years, made some inquiries for me on this matter, and gives the following note which he had apparently received from Oxford:

"Supplicateth in like manner Richard Deering, a scholar most highly trained in music, of Christ Church, forasmuch as he hath spent ten years in the study and practise of music, that this may su

ffice for him to be admitted to the lectures of the music of Boethius."

The statement by Deering that he had spent "ten years in the study and practise of music" absolutely disposes of the legend, so often repeated, that Deering published a set of 5-part Motets in Antwerp, in 1597. I have always entirely doubted that this had any foundation in fact. I believe it is a misprint for 1617, and it was not likely twenty years would elapse between the publication of two sets of Motets by so prolific a composer. "Ten years" makes the date of Deering's studies to begin in 1600, so he could not have published in 1597. I am glad to be able to correct this error on the authority of the Master himself.

It is very amusing, and rather annoying, to see how the musical historians have copied from one another the most untrue statements about Deering. Burney, Hawkins, and Mr Husk in the first edition of Grove's Dictionary, all give 1597 instead of 1617; and Burney and Hawkins say he was forced to leave England when the troubles of Charles I began. Hawkins says he was Organist to Henrietta Maria until she was compelled to leave England. The fact is Deering was dead before all this! He returned to England as Organist to Henrietta Maria in 1625, and died in 1630.

But space would fail me to point out more of the absurd statements about this musician. Let me rather now turn to his greatest contribution to our musical treasures.

I leave for a time further comment upon his work in England, and proceed to consider his magnificent Motets. It appears that on the invitation of the English nuns at Brussels he proceeded to that city and became Organist to the Convent. It was whilst there that he published in 1617 his fine series of Cantiones Sacrae for five voices; this was issued from the press of Peter Phalese in Antwerp. There are 18 Motets, all to Latin words, for five voices, and "Basso Continuo" for Organ.

I have already spoken of the way I made acquaintance with these masterpieces. It is very gratifying to find the increased favour with which they are received and the frequent performance of them by great choirs. The ignorant accounts of them which I have quoted shake one's faith in the opinion of such writers on other musical works.

The first set of Motets was dedicated to a remarkable personage, Sir William Stanley,[1] and the Preface is so interesting I feel justified in giving it (with the title-page). The original Dedication is in Latin, but I give it in a translation.[2]

In the second set, published in 1618, Deering claims to have written in the Madrigalian style. It looks as if he had tried to imitate the Madrigals he had heard, and to adapt some of the phrases to sacred words. I do not think the second set is as good as the first. But there are some very fine things in it, one of the best being "Silence prevailed in Heaven," a dramatic account of St Michael's war with the Dragon. I have had this printed, and it produces a splendid effect, and hope in time to restore to life many more of these unknown and really beautiful masterpieces.

I have not space to chronicle all Deering's musical works. But I must conclude this notice by some account of his secular music, and, more particularly, his remarkable Humorous Fancy, The Crycs of London. This is the third of these interesting Fancies which I have had the opportunity of recovering from oblivion. I have already in the case of Weelkes and Gibbons explained the circumstances attending this recovery. Deering's Fancy is the most elaborate of the three, and, besides a number of Cryes which the other musicians omitted, he has preserved to us some most interesting and charming Tradesmen's Songs-those of the Swepe, the Blacking-seller, the Vendor of Garlick, the Rat-catcher, and the Tooth-drawer. The whole Fancy is full of life, and shows Deering to be both dramatic and humourous. This work (and a similar one on Country Cryes) were written before he left England for Brussels, as the copy in the British Museum was made 1616.

There are a few Anthems scattered about in various Libraries, but as a Catholic his contributions to English Cathedral music would, no doubt, be few. Some are to be found in Durham Cathedral Library. On the marriage of Charles I, he was appointed Organist to the Queen Henrietta Maria. On July 11th, 1628, his name appears in a list of musicians in ordinary to the King, and he was evidently a member of the King's Private Band.

Most historians have stated that he lived to 1657, but this is just as incorrect as their other statements concerning Deering and his music. I have devoted much time to the elucidation of the history and the reproduction of his work, and feel in doing this I have helped to restore to his rightful place one of the greatest English musicians of the 17th, or indeed of any, century.

[1] Sir William Stanley was a Roman Catholic and a very extraordinary man. I think the following account from the Dictionary of National Biography will be of interest.

Sir W. Stanley, Adventurer, one of the Cheshire Stanleys. He served in the Netherlands under Alva. He quitted the Spanish service in 1570 and served in Ireland under Elizabeth, and later on was appointed Sheriff of Cork. He was very severe on the rebels and he reported he had hanged 300 of them and so terrified the rest that "a man might now travel the whole country and no one molest him." He thought he was not properly rewarded, and later on was guilty of treachery. He was, of course, Roman Catholic and greatly in the confidence of the Jesuits. He actually went to Spain to advise the best method of conquering England. He recommended that Ireland should be made the basis of operations, and that troops should disembark at Milford Haven rather than at Portsmouth. When Elizabeth died Stanley sent no less a person than Guy Fawkes, his subaltern officer, with an emissary of Catesby to Spain, to warn Philip against James. There is no evidence that he was concerned in the Gunpowder Plot, but he was placed under arrest at Brussels on suspicion of being concerned in it.

He spent the latter part of his life in complete obscurity. In 1616 he contributed largely to a Jesuit College of Liége, and was Governor of Mechlin. He sought in vain for permission to return to England, and died at Ghent in 1630, and was honoured with a magnificent public funeral. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Egerton of Egerton, who was buried in Mechlin Cathedral, in 1614. The male line of the Stanleys of Horton became extinct by the death of the twelfth baronet Sir John Stanley-Errington in 1883.

[2] Cantiones Sacrae for 5 Voices

with Basso Continuo for Organ.

by

RICHARD DEERING, Englishman,

Organist to the venerable

English Nuns in the Monastery

of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Brussels.

Antwerp.

at the house of Peter Phalese

1617.

Dedication

To Sir William Stanley, Knight, renewed at home and in Military life, Councillor at war to the most honourable and invincible Catholic King, his most worshipful Lord.

For long my Music has desired to come forward. She is not unpolished (for she was born in the first City of the World) but she is modest. For it is customary with new men, especially those that are bashful, not to bring their offspring however excellent to the light, until they find some distinguished man, whose approval if they win, they need fear neither the abuse of rivals nor the criticism of the ignorant.

But what patron should my music choose in preference to your lordship? When permitted to relax your mind from military cares, you think no delight, no pleasure greater than music. To music you give the chief place after war, in which none surpass you. Therefore let my child go forth with you for its patron. If you are the first to smile upon it as it takes its first modest steps, you will give it wonderful courage, for greater things. Live, flourish and conquer.

In War we long for Peace; Peace endeth wars,

Music makes jocund Peace to know no jars.

Your most obedient servant,

R. Deering.

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