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Professor Jeremy Dibble standing in front of a bookcase and a blackboard with musical notes written on it

Professor Jeremy Dibble, from our Department of Music, has devoted much of his academic career to researching and writing about Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Friday 29 March 2024 will mark 100 years since the composer’s death so we sat down with Jeremy to understand how Stanford’s legacy is very much alive.

What was it about Stanford and his music that made you first take an interest for your research?

As a church chorister in the 1960s, I remember the thrill of singing 'Stanford in B flat' for evensong and thinking what splendid music it was. At grammar school, my music master was greatly interested in Stanford, and because of this my curiosity grew, not just in singing his liturgical music in church and cathedral choirs, but also in his many other works which were less well known, with my interest extending into my time at university and while doing my PhD. The desire to research Stanford's music, and to try to convince broadcasters, publishers and recording companies to take a more active interest has grown exponentially as time has gone on.

For anyone unaware of Stanford’s music, how would you best describe it?

I would describe Stanford's music as passionately romantic. Influenced as a young man by the modern German composers, Schumann, Brahms and Wagner, he shaped an individual musical style that was equally appropriate in a cathedral as in an opera house. He was a colourful composer for the orchestra and wrote superbly for voices as anyone will tell you who sings in a choir or choral society.

Do you see any influences from Stanford in modern music or any music of any era for that matter?

I think British composers of the 20th century aspired to emulate Stanford's brilliance in writing for voices. As one of the great composition teachers who has ever lived, his influence on the next two or three generations of British composers is limitless. His influence has undoubtedly extended well beyond his pupils, promulgated by his book Musical Composition, which was published in 1911, but was considered a 'bible' by composers such as Michael Tippett. 

What plans are there to mark the 100th year of his passing?

  • Stanford will feature on BBC Radio 3 during the last week of March as 'Composer of the Week'. His Stabat Materis being performed live on BBC Radio 3 on 29 March (Good Friday) which happens to be the date of his death.
  • The same work is being performed at the Cork International Choral Festival in May and at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester at the end of July.
  • He is featuring at the BBC Proms and in numerous concerts in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Various concerts are also taking place in Germany and Italy where he is now better known. He will be a central figure in the Charles Wood Summer School in Armagh, and also for the Royal School of Church Music who are having celebrations in Cambridge in July for his church music.
  • He is also featuring in the English Song Festival in Ludlow in April and at the two colleges in Cambridge with which he was associated - Queens' and Trinity.
  • In October, his opera, The Critic (which I have edited from manuscript) will be performed four times at the Wexford International Opera Festival.  

Find out more:

Ranked 6th in the Complete University Guide by Subject 2024, the Music Department has been central to the Durham University’s three-year project to become the largest All-Steinway school in the UK. 

Research-led teaching supports our students to achieve their full potential as thinking, creative musicians, and scholars. What’s more Durham enjoys a rich musical life beyond the Department with numerous choirs, orchestras, opera, jazz, and early-music ensembles, in addition to our own annual concert series attracting soloists from around the World. 

Feeling inspired? Visit our Music webpages for more information on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 

Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally.