Art, rising up from the ashes

February 28, 2016 at 10:00 am

Sometimes it’s the darkest, saddest moments of a person’s life that elicit the most beautiful artistic response.

Herbert Howells is a composer who is mostly unknown except to Anglican church musicians, who tend to adore his music. In 1935, his nine-year old son died, which profoundly affected him and his compositions. A few years later, World War II broke out, deepening his depression.

Out of this sadness came a much-beloved series of anthems, originally titled “In Time of War”. Legend has it that one of these, “Like As the Hart“, was composed as the Nazis were bombing London, where Howells lived. It paints haunting image, and the text used (from Psalm 42) is downright chilling: “Where is now thy God?”