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Maurice Bevan (Baritone)

Born: March 10, 1921 - Shropshire or London, England
Died: June 20, 2006 - London, England

The English baritone, Maurice Guy Smallman Bevan, was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Anglican clergymen. His brother, Roger, who converted to Rome and became choirmaster at Downside School in Somerset, was the founder of the Bevan family choir, which toured widely and recorded with many of his 14 children between the 1950ís and 1970ís. Bevan's roots were in Shropshire, where he enjoyed something of a Trollopian upbringing in the enormous house of the Archdeacon of Ludlow, his grandfather. He was educated at Shrewsbury and read Greats at Magdalen College in Oxford, but was called up after a year. He spent five years with the Army, a period of his life he claimed not to have enjoyed. By the end of the World War II, he was in Germany working in broadcasting, and remained there until he became a vicar choral at St Paul's Cathedral Choir in London in 1949, a position in which he worked until 1989.

In 1950 Alfred Deller, the counter-tenor and Maurice Bevan's fellow vicar choral at St Paul's, established the Deller Consort. Norman Platt, later to found Kent Opera, was another member of both ensembles. The small, a cappella ensemble particularly championed works by composers such as Henry Purcell and John Dowland. From the outset Bevan was an integral part of the group. Often he would be the sole bass-baritone. Deller especially relied on Bevan's extensive knowledge of the repertoire to give the group an academic weight that it might otherwise have have lacked. The Deller Consort soon established itself as one of the leading interpreters of historically accurate music. Elizabethan and Italian madrigals, accompanied by the lutenist Desmond Dupré, were standard fare. The Consort's 1955 recording of Tallis's Lamentations of Jeremiah was a seminal moment in its development, and for many years the record enjoyed a cult following among the aficionados of early music.

Maurice Bevan gave new life to the English Baroque music of the 17th and 18th centuries, worked as a musicologist and writer, and he was well known in these areas For the BBC Maurice Bevan forged a somewhat different niche from his activity with the Deller Consort. Midway through Listen with Mother, a plummy voice would ring out: "And here is Maurice Bevan to sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." What followed would be a deep and resonant rendition of the nursery rhyme that would embed itself firmly in the psyche of many an impressionable toddler. So varied was Bevan's professional life that the same evening he might also be heard singing Compline - in an era when the BBC considered the valedictory service of the day worthy of broadcast.

Maurice Bevan, who was for more than 40 years the baritone with the Deller Consort, went with this vocal ensembles from England to concert tours all over the world with spectacular successes. He has performed as soloist in Europe, the USA, Israel and Brazil. Bevan had responsibility for the Deller Consort's travel arrangements. But things did not always go to plan. On one occasion the members were met by a limousine in central Paris to be taken to a recording studio. After a considerable journey towards the outskirts of the city Deller began to express concern, so Bevan tapped on the chauffeur's window and in his best pigeon French inquired as to their destination. The driver nodded and replied with what sounded like "Exactly", and so the journey continued.

Before long Maurice Bevan and his colleagues found themselves in the middle of the Saclay nuclear research centre, while elsewhere in the city a group of British engineers were extracting themselves from a recording session of Monteverdi's Vespers. In the Consort's early years much of their European travel was by boat and train. But Alfred Deller was quite insistent on proper meals, and it was not uncommon for the schedule to be arranged in order that they alighted from a train in Cologne around midday, and boarded the next train mid-afternoon, duly fed and watered.

Over the years the names and faces in the Deller Consort gradually changed. The most significant was when Alfred Deller died in 1979 and was succeeded by his son, Mark, who had been a member since 1964. However, as Joan Reinthaler wrote in the Washington Post in October 1982: "Amazingly, baritone Maurice Bevan goes on and on, his voice, if anything, more resonant and more flexible than ever, but still projected with the familiar ease and gentleness." Bevan gradually retired during the latter part of the decade, but continued to deputise at St Paul's Cathedral well into his seventies. He also became a regular tutor and mentor at Deller's summer school, the Deller Academy, at Lacoste in Provence, soon acquiring the reputation of an elder statesman. He continued there until the school ceased in 1996.

Maurice Bevan edited several important early works, including George Frideric Handel's Esther, and wrote a number of service settings and hymn tunes, the best known of the latter being Corvedale, which takes its name from the River Corve in Shropshire. It is a tune that was included, as a tribute to the composer, in There's a Wideness in God's Mercy, in the Daily Service on Radio 4 on the Friday after his death. Bevanís publications include editions of English vocal music of the 17th and 18th centuries. He contributed to: Journal of the American Musicological Society; Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart; Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Maurice Bevan himself was a splendid cook, a lover of fine wines and an avid reader, particularly of biographies. He was awarded a Lambeth degree in 1991. He married Anne Alderson in 1948. She died in 1991, He died on June 20, 2006, aged 85, and he is survived by their daughter.

Not least, should be mentioned his numerous recordings, most of which with the Deller Consort, and they appeared on the labels RCA, Harmonia Mundi (Acis and Galatea by G.F. Handel, 1970; The Fairy Queen, The Indian Queen and King Arthur by H. Purcell; arias and songs), Vanguard (Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, 1956; Alexander's Feast by G.F. Handel), Abbey (Sacred Music of the 17th and 18th centuries). He also recorded with the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir. His 1980 recording of the Haydn Mass in D minor (Nelsonmesse), with the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir and London Bach Orchestra (reissued on Guild Records in 1995) was among his more notable later achievements.


Source: Operisssimo Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (July 2012); Obitury in The Telegraph (June 21, 2006); All Music Guide (Author: Robert Cummings); International Who's Who in Music & Musicians' Directory (13th Edition, 1992/93)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2012)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Pièrre Colombo


BWV 243

Links to other Sites

Obituary in The Telgraph [Jul 21, 2006]

Maurice Bevan - Biography (AMG)

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