Not all the RTO’s fans managed to catch the triumphant performance at the Edinburgh Fringe, but for those who did, a small explanation is due. A few eagle eyed members of the audience spotted a reference in the programme notes to one Herbert Parry, composer of ‘Jerusalem’.
Now, as nearly everyone raised in an English school will confirm, the legendary hymn to William Blake’s words was the creation of Hubert, not Herbert, Parry. Many of you may have assumed that the RTO programme notes, therefore, contained a printing error. This is emphatically not the case.
The version of ‘Jerusalem’ performed by the RTO on August 27 was, in fact, the lesser known composition by Hubert’s younger and not so talented brother, Herbert.
History records little about the career of Herbert Parry. While Hubert found fame and recognition as director of the Royal College of Music, as professor of music at the University of Oxford and as composer, Herbert struggled to make a name for himself.
While Hubert, arguably the greatest English composer since Henry Purcell, was dreaming up gems such as the coronation anthem ‘I was glad’, Herbert had settled for a life as a coach driver, his love of music not matched by any ability.
Herbert’s take on ‘Jerusalem’ is plagiarised from the original with one or two inexplicable changes – a note missing here and there, a trumpet continuo, ahead of their time atonal passages on the strings, and something that sounds a bit like a car starting but could be clarinets.
Although members of the RTO prefer Hubert’s ‘Jerusalem’ (who doesn’t?), it was felt that Herbert’s was more suited to the technical capacities of most musicians and a decision was taken to go with the latter.
As this worked quite well on the day, it has been agreed that the RTO will wherever possible opt for a sibling’s efforts over those of their musical giant brother or sister (or indeed father or mother, son or daughter). Anyone deviating from familiar tunes will thus have a perfectly valid excuse.
Watch out for future airings of Vivian Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’ (by our new soloist on the violin, Morgan, who sang so finely at the Fringe concert), Edith Elgar’s ‘Enigmatic Variations’, and Alberto (father of Antonio) Vivaldi’s Concerto for Twelve Violins in F flat (that is very flat indeed!) major.