11 MAY 2019

Eric Thiman The Lord is My Shepherd (Harriet Astbury, Soprano, Caroline Clemmow, Piano, Bingham and District Choral Society, St Mary’s Church, Radcliffe on Trent, 7.30pm.)


Forty-four years after the death of the prolific English composer Eric Thiman (who had more than 1300 pieces published in his lifetime), a setting of Psalm 23 receives its premiere on May 11th.

The manuscript was recently unearthed amongst Thiman’s effects, and is definitely in his hand, but it is unusual for a number of reasons: (a) Thiman did not, as a rule, keep his manuscripts;  (b) Thiman nearly always wrote sacred music with organ and secular music with piano; (c) the copy, though very clearly in Thiman’s hand, does not carry his name; (d) in several respects, the piece is stylistically rather different from much of Thiman’s music.

The most curious thing though is that where Thiman’s name would normally appear there is the word ‘Paulatim’.  On investigation it turns out that ‘paulatim’ means ‘little by little’ in Latin, and Thiman’s niece Frances has made the possible connection with ‘Eric, or Little by Little’ the title of a popular Victorian children’s book by FW Farrar. Knowing how much Thiman and his brother loved humorous word-play, Frances wonders whether Paulatim was used as a code-name.

A possible explanation for the existence of this unpublished piece, and the use of ‘Paulatim’, is that it might have been intended as an entry for a composing competition, and that Thiman was disguising both his name and his style in order to throw the judges off the scent. The manuscript is dated July 1962 , when Thiman was very well-known, so entering a composing competition would seem odd, though, if he did do so (possibly for amusement, or maybe to fox the judges who might have been friends of his?), disguising himself would seem less so.

An attractive and lyrical piece, like all Thiman’s music in an approachable, conventional idiom, The Lord is my Shepherd receives it’s premiere conducted by Thiman’s archivist, Guy Turner.