Richard Terry (musicologist)

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Sir Richard Runciman Terry (3 January 1865 – 18 April 1938) was an English organist, choir director and musicologist. He is noted for his pioneering revival of Tudor liturgical music. He is often credited as R. R. Terry or simply R. T.

Musical career[edit]

His first appointments were to Elstow School in 1890 and as organist and choirmaster of St John's Cathedral, Antigua, in 1892. In 1896 he was appointed organist and director of music at the Roman Catholic Benedictine Downside School in Somerset. It was here where he began the massively important work of reviving the Latin music of Tudor English composers such as William Byrd and Thomas Tallis. He was greatly inspired by the revival of Gregorian chant by Dom Prosper Guéranger at Solesmes Abbey in France, which was to be an important part of the Downside musical repertoire.

Terry was the first Director of Music at the newly built Westminster Cathedral, a post which he held from 1901 to 1924, when he resigned after coming under increasing criticism for his erratic behaviour and neglect of duty (including neglecting administrative work, taking off without leave for weeks at a time, cancelling choir rehearsals without notice, dismissing Lay Clerks without proper procedure, taking on too many engagements outside his Cathedral work and tensions due to his inconsistent approach to congregational singing at the Cathedral).[1] Nonetheless, during this time he was able to establish a choral tradition of great merit at the Cathedral, developing a repertoire of both Gregorian chant and polyphonic music. The choir's particular focus on renaissance polyphony is believed to have had an impact on the emerging school of 20th century English composers and on the performance of church music in England. Following his resignation from Westminster Cathedral he went on to work as a musical editor, journalist and academic. He was the initial editor of the Oxford University Press series Tudor Church Music, although by the time this series was completed he had been ousted from the editorship.

He was awarded a knighthood in the 1922 Dissolution Honours.

Contribution to church music[edit]

The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians credits Terry with the revival of much English church music, including Peter Philips' Cantiones sacrae, Byrd's three and five part masses and Gradualia and Cantiones sacrae, Tallis' mass and lamentation, William Mundy's Mass Upon the Square and many motets by Thomas Morley, Christopher Tye and others. Much of this work resulted in his editing and publishing performing editions of this music including 24 motets in Novello's series of Tudor motets. He also published the first modern editions of Calvin's first psalter of 1539 and the Scottish Psalter of 1635. In 1912 he edited the Westminster Hymnal.

Terry was also a composer of church music, most notably of hymn tunes, several of which are in use today, such as the popular Christmas carol Myn Lyking.

Select bibliography[edit]

  • Catholic Church Music, 1907 (enlarged in 1931 as The Music of the Roman Rite)
  • Still More Old Rhymes with New Tunes, Longmans, Green & Co, 1912 (illustrated by Gabriel Pippet)
  • On Music's Borders, 1927
  • Voodooism in Music and Other Essays, a collection published in 1934

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Doyle, Westminster Cathedral 1895-1995, London, 1995, p. 57-58