The Finzi Window

The church of St James in Ashmansworth features two engraved glass windows, commemorating Gerald and Joy Finzi.

A Celebration of English Music

This larger window shows a tree amongst whose roots appear the initials and birth-dates of fifty English composers, including Finzi himself. The window was commissioned in 1976 by Joy Finzi from the renowned poet, architectural historian, artist and friend of the Finzis, Sir Laurence Whistler CBE (1912-2000).

The window celebrates a ‘family’ of English composers and their frequent inspiration by the English countryside. It also exemplifies Whistler’s own visual and poetic language, rooted in his love of his native landscape. Around the edges of the tree image are quotations from great English poets, reflecting Gerald Finzi’s affection for poetry and lyrical writing.

 

Music, when soft voices die

(from “Music, when soft voices die” by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Music, when music sounds gone is the earth I know

(from “Music” by Walter de la Mare)

The music in my heart I bore

(from “The Solitary Reaper” by William Wordsworth)

Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?

(from Sonnet No.8 by William Shakespeare)

 

On the stone wall into which the window is set, are carved the names of earlier British composers such as Richard Mudge and John Stanley, whose music was resurrected and championed by Finzi.

 

Memorial Window to Gerald and Joy Finzi

This window commemorates Joy Finzi’s contribution to the fields of music, poetry and art, both in support of Gerald and as a creative force in her own right.

In the centre of the window are lines from William Wordsworth’s poem “Surprised by Joy”

…impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb

Around the central dedication is a ring of words taken from Robert Bridges’ poem “My spirit sang all day”. These words also appear in one of Finzi’s most memorable settings, as a choral anthem. Finzi’s melody appears above the quoted lines of Bridges’ poem.

What, said she, is this word?
What is thy joy?
And I replied,
O see, O my joy,
‘Tis thee, I cried, ’tis thee:
Thou art my joy.

This window was engraved by Simon, Laurence Whistler’s son and regular collaborator. It is typical of his work in its use of musical and decorative motifs rather than the landscape imagery favoured by his father. Both styles are visible in the Whistlers’ collaboration on the Finzi Bowl.

 

A Note on Sir Laurence Whistler CBE

Whistler’s poetic career began when he won the 1935 King’s Gold Medal for Poetry. After this he quickly turned his hand to prose, publishing a pioneering book on the life of the architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh.

However it was as an artist that Whistler made his greatest contribution. He is regarded as having single-handedly revived the C17th and C18th-century skill of point engraving on glass, re-imagining it as an art-form for the twentieth century. Whistler later collaborated with his son Simon, as he had also done with his brother, the artist and illustrator Rex Whistler.

Whistler is best known for his artworks in the form of vessels such as the Finzi bowl,  which includes an image of St James’s Church, Ashmansworth in its design – and his church windows. These include a complete set of twelve windows at the church of St Nicholas in Moreton, Dorset; a memorial to poet Edward Thomas and his wife in Eastbury; and memorial panels in Salisbury Cathedral.