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HRH & Parry

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An interesting clip on R4 this morning from HRH Prince C. who is apparently doing a slot later this week on Hubert Parry lead to this. The way he was going on indicated that perhaps we should now be seeing Parry as a unnecessarily neglected genius. I tend to agree with the comments in The Independent though. 'Will probably listen in out of curiosity!

 

A

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Perhaps Parry is now due a reappraisal? As organists I suppose we are often guilty of being rather insular but lets start at Mr. Parrys organ music. Thanks to the wonders of spotify we can access James Lancelots' fine recording on Priory of the complete organ works, summerised as F+F in G, 'Wanderer' T+F, two books of Seven Chorale Preludes, and three Choral Fantasias. Some good stuff lies herein, and I am already thinking that the Fantasia and Fugue, which I partially learnt a few summers ago might need finishing off for next years recital programmes.

 

It's certainly comparable to the works of other 'serious' English composers from the end of the 19th century.

 

With the choral music, are the songs of farewell not amongst the most beautiful things of their type? Best Pair of Nylons and I was Glad have had their own outings of late. Orchestrally, I know the Lady Radnors suite, which is a pleasing piece of english string music of its time.

 

Perhaps Jerusalem is Parrys great downfall? A composer who will never escape a weak composition - the people who enjoy it the most would be unlikely to investigate further, and those who see it ass something which doesn't make them want to learn more about the composer also won't.

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Perhaps Jerusalem is Parrys great downfall? A composer who will never escape a weak composition - the people who enjoy it the most would be unlikely to investigate further, and those who see it ass something which doesn't make them want to learn more about the composer also won't.

 

====================

 

 

What's wrong with Jerusalem?

 

As far as hymns go, it's an effective tune, even if the words were written by a madman, William Blake.

 

Even the words make perfect sense if you do the ancient Greek poetic thing........

 

And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England's pastures green? (No!)

 

You keep answering no, until you get to:-

 

Give me my bow, of burning gold. Give me my chariot of fire etc.

 

Only then do the words make sense, and it's actually quite a powerful ditty.

 

Anyway, I like Jersualem, even if the "Little Englanders" have adopted it as their "anthem."

 

MM

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What an interesting article.

 

I was nearly on this TV show as Parry was baptised in St Peter's Bournemouth. There was a plan to assemble various local choirs there and sing a few of the hymn tunes. Alas, it was not to be.

 

Parry's hymn tunes are all cleverly constructed and easy to sing. The third line invariably begins with a hidden sequence, one which after a couple of repetitions appears to peter out but is still there in disguise. Lends an air of familiarity.

 

Rustington is a much under-done piece.

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I don't know much of Parry's stuff outside of church music (but then how many people do?).

 

However, I enjoy a lot of his choral music. In addition to 'I was glad' and 'Blest pair', 'Hear my words, ye people' is superb even if it is as long as those first two put together. The choral parts look to me to be quite easy (the two solos aside) although the organ part is certainly not straightforward. I heard it at St Marys, Nottingham on the Sunday evening just gone, twas very enjoyable.

 

I think Jerusalem is a fine tune and like Holst's Thaxted, is let down for me as a hymn by the words which have very little relevance to a church service in my eyes.

 

As regards hymn tunes, 'Repton' is one of my absolute favourites and must be well-known by many - popular at weddings and funerals. 'Rustington' is very fine although has quite a large range - it works well to 'Through the night of doubt and sorrow', and not forgetting 'Laudate Dominum' for 'O praise ye the Lord', which of course itself comes from the end of Hear my words.

 

Repton and Jerusalem will be widely known, even by non-churchgoers and 'I was glad' must be known by a fair proportion, and all are fine pieces of music. Blest pair seems to crop up regularly among amateur choral societies and has featured several times at the Last Night of the Proms. Does the lack of awareness of Parry's other music (especially his non-church music) mean that it is not as good by comparison, or has he suffered as Stanford and Howells have in being pigeon-holed as a composer only of church music?

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Parry's excellent symphonies are being played each day at 10.30 on r3 this week. Caught "The Cambridge" on my car wireless this morning. Great stuff. No more "second-rate" than the CPE Bach Magnificat on at lunchtime... Incidentally, David Briggs has recently released the Parry F&F in G on the 1962 Klais at Himmerod. Yes. I know. It really shouldn't work but by golly it's good!

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Incidentally, David Briggs has recently released the Parry F&F in G on the 1962 Klais at Himmerod. Yes. I know. It really shouldn't work [...]

I don't see why not. It's a stonkly fine organ in a stonking acoustic to rival St Paul's. As so often the strings are all on the Schwellwerk, but it has plenty of resources to cope with contrapuntal Romantic music, so I can imagine the Parry working superbly.

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As regards hymn tunes, 'Repton' is one of my absolute favourites and must be well-known by many - popular at weddings and funerals.

 

At weddings? 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways'?? 'Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm, Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire......'????

 

I remember playing it at a wedding only once, at Bangor PC, Co. Down, a wedding made even more memorable when the best man fainted during the vows and sent an enormous flower arrangement crashing to the floor.

 

George Thalben-Ball, who knew Parry well, used to say that his music could be uneven, but that when it was good it was superb - fair comment, I think.

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It was a little bit disappointing IMHO. I suppose I was expecting a TV version of Prof. Dibble's excellent book but what we got was a lot of HRH wandering about saying "marvellous" at everything and a fairly random pick of works. There was little chronological order to it.

 

HRH went on about the symphonies, but all we got were snippets of No. 5 -- Where were the rest? No organ music either, which was a pity.

 

Strange that Shulbrede was featured so heavily, even though Parry never actually lived there. I appreciate the lady living there might be Parry's last living descendent or something, and their collection of Parrybilia is unparalleled but even so.

 

In short, a missed opportunity I thought and certainly not on the same level as the recent RVW and Elgar documentaries produced by the BBC.

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During the interval of the 2010 Prom which included Parry's 5th Symphony, a TV crew in the arena of the RAH asked a number of Prommers what they thought about the piece. I told them that I thought it was very old-fashioned for its time, considering what Brahmns had done by then. Since all the interviews were left on the cutting room floor, I guess I wasn't the only one who didn't share HRH's enthusiasm for it.

 

Two telling quotes from HRH though. "It took a lot of pressure on the BBC" to get them to programme the piece. So he was bombarding Nick Kenyon with his famous letters, was he? At least we now know beyond doubt who chose the music for his son's wedding.

 

And, in a conversation about Parry's relationship with his wife, "Marriages can be very complicated"!

 

Ian

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In short, a missed opportunity I thought and certainly not on the same level as the recent RVW and Elgar documentaries produced by the BBC.

 

They can do these things well - the afternoon Radio 4 slot this week on W S Gilbert has been fascinating for example. What worries me is that if someone with a bit of media clout pops up and wants to do a documentary on 'whoever' then they are often able to to do so. There used to be a couple of 'well knowns' who 'did' musical topics because of an interest rather than an in depth knowlege (ie did we get the above programme for the HRH or the Parry?) and as far as I am concerned they fell a bit flat.

 

A

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At weddings? 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways'?? 'Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm, Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire......'????

 

I remember playing it at a wedding only once, at Bangor PC, Co. Down, a wedding made even more memorable when the best man fainted during the vows and sent an enormous flower arrangement crashing to the floor.

 

T'was popular for weddings at a former Church where my wife was choirmistress. Severe "no sniggers" warnings to choristers were always needed.

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Quite enjoyed it myself, although it was rather disjointed. It was particularly thoughtful of HRH to ask consistent questions of selected performers - including the Westminster Abbey Choristers and BBC Phil string players - about their perception of Parry from performing his work. And I'm sure the composer would have been thoroughly delighted with the excellent performances everyone gave!

 

A pity we didn't get complete uninterrupted accounts of everything (and yes, HRH's "marvellous" began to pall after about the 50th time they intercut to him mid-performance!) and a shame that room wasn't found for other neglected masterpieces like the Piano Concerto or the other symphonies, although I suppose they had to have the "pops" in there somewhere... On the other hand, if HRH's aim was partly to inspire a search for more unknown masterpieces, he certainly encouraged me to get digging.

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I agree that it was a bit uneven in places, but that's mostly down to the editing, surely? Any film which promotes Parry's music is going to be a Good Thing. The various Shulbrede Tunes played on the piano were a revelation to me, as was the movement from the Magnificat, filmed in Oxford. As an appetizer for a deeper investigation into Parry's music it must surely be ranked as a great success.

The Westminster Abbey conversations were great fun, especially when James O'Donnell asked Robert Quinney to take a break from the pedalboard.

They say that CHHP died in the Spanish 'flu epidemic, though I'd heard that he died from septicemia caused by a hernia which he ruptured whilst strenuously tricycling uphill. Is this true?

I have in my possession a charming letter on RCM notepaper, dated 9 January 1911, to a recently-departed student, one 'Dodds', in which Parry hopes that 'you will get plenty to do and do it in grand style'. If only today's conservatoire administrators were so wholesome and encouraging in their parting remarks!

 

Malcolm Riley

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Any film which promotes Parry's music is going to be a Good Thing. The various Shulbrede Tunes played on the piano were a revelation to me, as was the movement from the Magnificat, filmed in Oxford. As an appetizer for a deeper investigation into Parry's music it must surely be ranked as a great success.

I agree, and do not share the disappointment which some have expressed about the film. I do hope that the Magnificat will be recorded in due course, and while Parry's Piano Concerto is available for discovery on the Hyperion label, I can safely say that Boult's rather elusive last-ever recording - the 5th Symphony, no less - will be finding a place on my CD shelves in the next few days.

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I agree, and do not share the disappointment which some have expressed about the film. I do hope that the Magnificat will be recorded in due course, and while Parry's Piano Concerto is available for discovery on the Hyperion label, I can safely say that Boult's rather elusive last-ever recording - the 5th Symphony, no less - will be finding a place on my CD shelves in the next few days.

I also will buy a recording of the 5th Symphony (once I've tracked it down). I was also rather taken with the extract from the Lady Radnor's Suite.

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