Page 105 - Parry Songs of Farewell
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Parry: Songs of Farewell 105
With the issuing of the final motet, and perhaps sensing the masterly stature and pathos of them, Akerman wrote effusively to Parry: ‘It has been the proudest time of my life while I have had the privilege of seeing the set through the Press.’8
According to Emily Daymond, Parry had his motets lithographed first so that he could hear them before they were finally published9. In this way he was able to hear the first five of them at the Royal College of Music on 22 May 1916 sung by the Bach Choir under its conductor Hugh Allen. At the rehearsals Parry began to realise the demands of the seven-part motet. At a rehearsal in March he felt that it ‘was almost too much for them’,10 and at a later one on 11 May he remarked that ‘Allen [was] in despair of getting them to tackle it adequately. I took one turn through with them, and thought they did it very well.’11 At the concert on 22 May, the choir had learned the music more thoroughly. Parry was hugely impressed: ‘...they sang the new motets most beautifully. I never felt anything so sympathetic. They encored the 6-part one, and the Choir passed
a singular compliment to the ‘round earth’ one as they all stayed while the audience went out and they sang it again – even better than first time.’12 Two days later he wrote an effusive letter to Allen:
I never was so hugely fortunate in all my life. I never heard such real interpretation. You somehow got to the inside of the motets to an extent I never came across before. You even seemed to influence the very colour of the voices. And it really did fill me with unusual joy to hear the certainty with which you hit upon the very utmost I wanted – phrasing and gradation and all! I was most deeply grateful. And the way they responded to you was marvellous. The beloved old Choir surpassed themselves. I have owed them much gratitude on many occasions but never more than then. I felt they were ungrudgingly giving of their best, and were really sympathetic.13
The final motet was performed for the first time by the Oxford Bach Choir (in a somewhat skeletal form because of the war) under Allen in the ante-chapel of New College, Oxford, on 17 June 1917.14 ‘They sang ‘Lord let me know mine end beautifully’, Parry recalled. ‘The first time I had heard it. It seemed to come off all right.’15 It was Parry’s last visit to Oxford. His final hearing of the motets was a performance of ‘There is an old belief’ sung by the Bach Choir and Royal Choral Society at a special choral commemoration of the Seven Divisions who stemmed the German attack in the summer and autumn of 1914 at the Albert Hall on 15 December 1915.
8. Letter from Akerman to Parry, 27 May 1918, GB-ShP.
9. Daymond catalogue.
10. Diaries of Hubert Parry, 30 March 1916.
11. Diaries of Hubert Parry, 11 May 1916.
12. Diaries of Hubert Parry, 22 May 1916.
13. Letter from Parry to Hugh Allen, 24 May 1916. GB-Lcm.
14. Bailey, C., Hugh Percy Allen (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1948), 45.
15. Diaries of Hubert Parry, 17 June 1917.

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