Monday, July 20, 2015

All we are saying is give truth a chance


In a typical piece of click baitery about the 1916 premiere of Sir Hubert Parry's Jerusalem, Norman Lebrecht writes that*:
The conductor was Sir Henry Walford Davis. He and Parry had previously appeared together on a pro-War ‘Fight for Right’ platform.
In fact the origins of both the 'Fight for Right' movement and Parry's celebrated setting of Blake are far more complex than suggested by that facile 'pro-war' stereotyping. Soldier and spy turned pacifist Sir Francis Younghusband formed 'Fight for Right' as a religious, not militaristic movement created to engage in a spiritual, not military, conflict. Of particular contemporary relevance is that Younghusband's vision was for a movement that would appeal "to the whole of humanity... Hindus, Mohammedans, Buddhists..."

Younghusband believed that the spirit of the people “would respond to music, speech, song”, and this resulted in the creation of Parry's setting of Blake as a rallying anthem for the new spiritual movement. After its premiere Jerusalem achieved the Edwardian equivalent of trending, but 'Fight for Right' fared less well, and in 1917 a split opened in the movement between belligerent patriots and committed pacifists. As 'Fight for Right' became increasingly miltaristic Parry withdrew Jerusalem as its anthem, and Younghusband sided with the pacifists and severed connections, and the movement was eventually wound up.

Anniversary mania means there will be many jingoistic celebrations - i.e. not appealing to ""Hindus, Mohammedans, Buddhists..." - of the Jerusalem premiere next year, so it is worth giving the truth a chance to be heard. My header collage showing Sir Francis Younghusband with Buddha statue and this brief summary of the gestation of Jerusalem are taken from a more detailed account that can be read via this link.

* To avoid succumbing to click baitery the link to Slipped Disc is indirect; the referenced post should appear at the top of the Google search results. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

2 comments:

Keri said...

Lebrecht's ability to get everything wrong is extraordinary. He headlines his piece "Who sang the first Jerusalem?" but the first setting of Blake's words was by Walford Davies in his "England's Pleasant Land : three part-songs, Op. 22" of 1907. It says much for Davies's admiration for Parry's setting, quoted by Jeremy Dibble in the Parry biography, that Davies never mentions his own earlier version. Lebrecht even manages to misspell Walford Davies's name and allots him the knighthood he didn't receive until 1922. It was as Dr Walford Davies that he conducted those 300 voices at the Queen's Hall on 28 March 1916. (Lebrecht initially wrote Royal Albert Hall but has since silently corrected his error. And the singers were volunteers from the principal choral societies and choirs of London not the dragooned schoolboys of Lebrecht's imagination.)

And as for that admirable man Hubert Parry, I wish Lebrecht might read Jeremy Dibble's excellent "C.Hubert H.Parry : his Life and Music" (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1992) and understand that Parry was no establishment figure but a man of radical politics, who loated the jingoism that eventually swallowed up the ideals of Younghusband's "Fight for Right".

Gavin Plumley said...

Classic Lebrecht... he can't even spell Walford Davies correctly.