Ye Boundless Realms of Joy
Reamyn yn Yrjey Vooar
Forty West Gallery Psalms, Hymns and Anthems from the Isle of Man
Edited by Francis Roads
This selection of West Gallery music, published by the Centre for Manx Studies at the University of Liverpool, is drawn from the Colby Manuscripts, collected and used by William Shepherd in the Isle of Man in the early decades of the 19th century and includes 32 added Manx texts and contains settings of 31 psalms, 5 hymns, 2 anthems, a canticle and a double chant.
From the Foreword by Fenella Bazin:
Francis Roads' painstaking work to make sense of what appeared to be a fairly random collection of manuscripts formed part of the work for his PhD. Through his musicological detective work, he managed to disentangle this complexity and establish that there had been not one but three choirs ... The final stage of this remarkable piece of work was the comparison with comparable items found in libraries throughout the British Isles. Inevitably, many of the items were similar, though there were others that were significantly different or for which there were no parallels. It is these latter items that form the subject of this volume ... However much scholarship goes into such work, music only becomes alive in performance and it is for this purpose that Francis Roads' work is published ... What this music conveys to the keen observer and performer is the quality of the music that was being written and performed in small Manx country churches in the early 1800s. The composers and transcribers knew the capabilities of their choirs. Let the music leap off the page and live again! It is a unique glimpse into the lives of our ancestors.
Ye Boundless Realms of Joy is available from:
Centre for Manx Studies, 6 Kingswood Grove, DOUGLAS, Isle of Man, IM1 3LX, price £12.50 (+ £2.70 UK p&p). Cheques should be made payable to "Centre for Manx Studies" tel: 01624-673074 or email
or order from your bookshop ISBN: 1899338-10-1
Review by Paul Guiliunas:
This publication, Research Report 11 from the Centre for Manx Studies of the University of Liverpool, is based on Francis's PhD thesis. It presents music from the Colby manuscripts, chosen because it is not found elsewhere. Most of it appears to have been composed on the Isle of Man, and does not occur in printed sources. A few pieces come from the standard West Gallery repertoire, but in variants that are peculiar to this collection.
The principal motivation for publishing this music, stated both in Fenella Bazin's Foreword and in Francis's introduction, is to make available performing editions of material that would not otherwise be available. Francis indicates that it is directed at Manx choirs (and Manx texts have been provided as well as English in most cases), but that it is in a format suitable for the use of any choir.
Along with the details relating to the Colby manuscripts the introduction gives some background to the West Gallery repertoire, clearly aimed at the general reader and I was interested in Francis's brief attempt to characterise the West Gallery style. However, I would have welcomed more discussion about West Gallery music in general, since Francis has some interesting points to make, but does not develop them. I was particularly struck by one statement: "there is no doubt that the two countries where the style was adopted with the greatest vigour were the USA and the Isle of Man".
In addition to his general comments, Francis includes quite a lot of detail relating to the specific manuscripts, tunes and personalities that are the subject of his thesis. Obviously much of this has limited interest outside the Isle of Man, but it provides an excellent example of the kind of research that can, and should, be done on the corpus of manuscripts that still remain from the West Gallery period. It is worth buying just for that.
The real reason for publication, of course, is to make the music available. It is well presented, with "Roadsian numbers" and other devices to aid performance. A keyboard reduction is provided, which purists can ignore if it offends them, although they should note that this merely mirrors early nineteenth century publishing practice. I fully support any attempt to make more West Gallery music available, and I would encourage all to buy this book.