Today I sang Hubert Parry’s anthem, ‘I Was Glad’, with St Ann’s choir for a service to mark the commencement of the newly-elected Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann). Parry was born in 1848, an explosive year in Europe, not least in Ireland. He died in 1918, just a few months before the first Irish parliament convened.
This paragraph, from the Wikipedia article on Parry, is a bleak reminder of the cost of freedom:
In the words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: “During the war he watched a life’s work of progress and education being wiped away as the male population—particularly the new fertile generation of composing talent—of the Royal College dwindled.”
‘I Was Glad’ is justifiably one of Parry’s best known works, and was written for the coronation of Edward VII, revised for that of George V, and performed again at Elizabeth II’s crowning ceremony. (An upside to the abdication debacle—for Parry, at least—must have been the opportunity to hear his work performed at two coronations!). It’s a great piece and brilliantly written. Listen to the lovely word setting of the central section (“O pray for the peace of Jerusalem…”) and the wonderfully expansive climax on the word ‘plenteousness’ at the end.
(PS this isn’t us—it’s St Paul’s in London on the Queen’s golden jubilee)
Today is Ash Wednesday, so it didn’t go unnoticed among the choir that ‘I Was Glad’ is rather a joyous piece for the first day of Lent. Quick as a flash, one of our number, a Finnish girl called Tuula, said, “Well, it is past tense: ‘I Was Glad’…”.