Hubert Parry

From Wind Repertory Project
Hubert Parry


Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet (27 February 1848, Bournemouth, England – 7 October 1918, Rustington, West Sussex, England) was an English composer, teacher and historian of music.

Parry was born into wealth inherited from his great grandfather, Thomas Parry a director of the East India Company who died in 1816. Parry's family lived in a country seat at Highnam Court, a seventeenth-century house near the River Severn and two miles west from Gloucester.

From January 1856 to the middle of 1858 Hubert attended a preparatory school in Malvern, from where he moved to Twyford Preparatory School in Hampshire. At Twyford his interest in music was encouraged by the headmaster, and by two organists, S S Wesley at Winchester Cathedral, and Edward Brind, at Highnam church. From Wesley he gained an enduring love of Bach's music, which according to The Times "ultimately found expression in his most important literary work, Johann Sebastian Bach, the Story of the Development of a Great Composer (1909)". Brind gave Parry piano and basic harmony lessons, and took him to the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford in 1861. The experience left a great impression on Parry, and effectively marked the beginning of his lifelong association with the festival.

After early attempts to work in insurance, at his father's behest, Parry was taken up by George Grove, first as a contributor to Grove's massive Dictionary of Music and Musicians in the 1870s and 80s, and then in 1883 as professor of composition and musical history at the Royal College of Music, of which Grove was the first head. In 1895 Parry succeeded Grove as head of the College, remaining in the post for the rest of his life. He was concurrently Heather Professor of Music at the University of Oxford from 1900 to 1908. He wrote several books about music and music history, the best-known of which is probably his 1909 study of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Parry's first major works appeared in 1880. As a composer he is best known for the choral song Jerusalem, the coronation anthem I was Glad, the choral and orchestral ode Blest Pair of Sirens, and the hymn tune Repton, which sets the words "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind". His orchestral works include five symphonies and a set of Symphonic Variations.

Both in his lifetime and afterwards, Parry's reputation and critical standing have varied. His academic duties were considerable, and prevented him from devoting all his energies to composition, but some contemporaries such as Charles Villiers Stanford rated him as the finest English composer since Henry Purcell; others, such as Frederick Delius, did not. Parry's influence on later composers, by contrast, is widely recognised. Edward Elgar learned much of his craft from Parry's articles in Grove's Dictionary, and among those who studied under Parry at the Royal College were Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frank Bridge and John Ireland.

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