The Herbert Howells Society
The Herbert Howells Society was set up in 1987 at the instigation of Ursula Howells, the composer’s daughter, and is based in Westminster Abbey, where the composer’s ashes are buried.
The aims of the Society over more than three decades have been to promote a wider appreciation of Howells' music and to support and publicise the performance, publication and recording of his works.
The Society acts as a focal point for all lovers of his music, and for questions about his output. It has organised articles in various publications and periodicals, advises researcher on sources, and regularly liaises with publishers to ensure that his works are kept in print. It has only really been since Howells' death in London in 1983 that a number of compositions that he had put to one side have been re-discovered. The Society has been active, along with his biographers Christopher Palmer and Paul Spicer, in trying to ensure that all his compositions will finally be published, and has collaborated with the composer’s principal publisher, Novello, in bringing into print for the first time a number of choral and orchestral works. To this end, the Society also works closely with the Howells Trust, set up in 2007 to assist projects for the publication, recordings and concerts of the less well known works. The Society also disseminates regular information to its members about live performances, new and existing recordings and publications.
The Society publishes newsletters and update emails and holds an Evensong together with its AGM on the nearest Saturday to his birthday, 17th October. The venue alternates between Westminster Abbey and cathedrals or colleges with which Howells was associated.
The Society has members from all over the world, as well as a North American Branch, and the Royal Forest of Dean Herbert Howells Society is affiliated to it.
Origins of the Society
An event in 1982 brought together the people who, five years later, were to be most closely involved in the formation of the Herbert Howells Society. Robert Ascott, the chairman of the Barnes Music Club, was considering how best to celebrate the 90th birthday of Herbert Howells, the club’s president. He sought ideas from Ursula Howells and his good friend Raymond Elliott, who was a former chairman of the club. It quickly became evident that a first-class choir would be needed. Raymond’s son, Malcolm, was singing in the Collegiate Singers, and he recommended that choir. A meeting between Ursula, Raymond, Robert and Andrew Millinger, the choir’s conductor, produced plans for an appropriate concert to mark the birthday. The result was a fitting occasion at All Saints, East Sheen, with the composer present. Andrew conducted, John Scott was at the organ and Robert made the speech.
After Herbert’s death, Raymond Elliott had the idea of forming a Herbert Howells Society. He and Ursula invited Sir David Willcocks to be the president, Simon Preston to be the chairman, Andrew Millinger to be the secretary, and Robert Ascott to be the treasurer. Founder committee members were John Scott, John Rutter and Dorothy Elliott, Raymond’s daughter-in-law. The Dean of Westminster agreed that the Society be based at Westminster Abbey, where Herbert’s ashes had been interred. The Society was inaugurated at Evensong in the Abbey on 17th October 1987. After the service, the Collegiate Singers performed the Requiem, with Andrew conducting.
Officers and Committee