The Music Winston Churchill Loved (with audio links)

The Music Winston Churchill Loved (with audio links)

Don Cusic, Win­ston Churchill’s Love of Music: Churchill Didn’t Have a Tin Ear (Nashville: Brack­ish Pub­lish­ing, 2018), 122 pages, $21. Audio links can eas­i­ly be pro­vid­ed online. Excerpt­ed from a review for the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project. For the full review, click here.

Music by Cusic

Cusic’s text traces Churchill’s life and career, track­ing every ref­er­ence the author found to music and song. We range from the march­es, dit­ties and Gilbert & Sul­li­van Churchill loved to the pow­er­ful­ly inspi­ra­tional. Which lyrics are pre­sent­ed is pure­ly arbi­trary, but once cho­sen, we get every word. Churchill’s youth­ful encoun­ters with the ’cel­lo and piano are duly not­ed. Sev­er­al author­i­ties attest to the fact that he was him­self a ter­ri­ble if enthu­si­as­tic singer (and dancer!). But the chief val­ue of the book is moti­va­tion­al. The author’s ideas and asser­tions lead read­ers to search for more infor­ma­tion or the songs them­selves (see below).

“A Great Hour to Live”

Cusic includes all vers­es of the three hymns Churchill select­ed for Sun­day ser­vices on HMS Prince of Wales, dur­ing his meet­ing with Roo­sevelt in August 1941. In Their Finest Hour, Churchill wrote: “I chose the hymns myself: ‘For Those in Per­il on the Sea’ and ‘Onward, Chris­t­ian Sol­diers.’ We end­ed with ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past,’ which Macaulay reminds us the Iron­sides had chant­ed as they bore John Hampden’s body to the grave. Every word seemed to stir the heart. It was a great hour to live. Near­ly half those who sang were soon to die.” (Japan­ese air­craft sank the bat­tle­ship off Sin­ga­pore four months lat­er.)

Stet Fortuna Domus

Churchill’s vis­its to his old school, Har­row, are nice­ly described, and some of the Har­row Songs pro­vid­ed. The author includes both songs with spe­cial vers­es for Churchill. The first was added in 1941 to “Stet For­tu­na Domus”. The author explains that “stern­er” in line 1 was Churchill’s sub­sti­tute for “dark­er.” These were not dark days, he told the boys, but “the great­est days our coun­try has ever lived.” Thus the verse:

Nor less we praise in stern­er days

The leader of our nation,

And CHURCHILL’S name shall win acclaim

From each new gen­er­a­tion.

For you have pow­er in danger’s hour

Our free­dom to defend, Sir,

Though long the fight, we know the right

Will tri­umph in the end, Sir.

 

Donorum Dei 

This song is not in Win­ston Churchill’s Love of Music. Nor can I find an audio link. (Any­one?) The Churchill verse is:

Churchill with flour­ish of sabre and brush and pen

Rode gal­lant­ly forth on his way to be leader of men;

The last of sev­en who lived on the Hill

Wait­ing the call to serve the nation,

And nursed by the dreams that still

Their ancient end ful­fill—

Of God’s good gifts the faith­ful dis­pen­sa­tion.

 

The Silver Arrow

The song was com­posed in 1910, the Churchill verse in 1986. That year HM The Queen and the Duke of Edin­burgh vis­it­ed Har­row School on 24 Novem­ber 1986. It is not part of this 1928 record­ing, but the melody is con­veyed:

The flame that woke when Churchill spoke

Blazes forth in the dark­ness still;

We do not for­get: they are need­ed yet—

Loy­al spir­it and strength and skill.

But today will be heard no waver­ing word

No cloud of care be seen:

Each heart rejoice, ring out each voice

In glad­ness, “God save the Queen!”

 

Forty Years On

Two Churchill vers­es were added to the majes­tic school song “Forty Years On.” They marked Sir Winston’s 80th and 90th birth­days in 1954 and 1964. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the book omits the 1954 verse, and online ver­sions do not con­tain either. But lis­ten­ing to the link above, you can quick­ly catch the melody:

 

Six­ty years on, though in time grow­ing old­er,

Younger at heart you return to the Hill.

You who in days of defeat ever bold­er.

Led us to Vic­to­ry, serve Britain still.

Still there are bases to guard or belea­guer,

Still must the bat­tle for Free­dom be won:

Long may you fight. Sir, who fear­less and eager

Look back to-day more than six­ty years on.

 

Bla­zoned in hon­our! For each gen­er­a­tion

You kin­dled courage to stand and to stay;

You led our fathers to fight for the nation,

Called “Fol­low up” and your­self showed the way.

We who were born in the calm after thun­der

Cher­ish our free­dom to think and to do;

If in our turn we for­get­ful­ly won­der,

Yet we’ll remem­ber we owe it to you.

 

Har­row stu­dents sing Churchill Songs only once per year, the most pop­u­lar “Songs” pro­gram. Being there on that occa­sion is also a great hour to live.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *