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Parry: English Lyrics Volume 1

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Susan Gritton 
James Gilchrist
Roderick Williams

This new release  brings exciting news for all lovers of English Song. SOMM have recently recorded Hubert Parry’s Twelve Sets of English Lyrics in three volumes, complete for the first time. Volume I is now available and the other two will be released at six-monthly intervals.

This has been a close collaboration between SOMM and Andrew West partnering Susan Gritton, James Gilchrist and Roderick Williams, three charismatic singers at the top of their profession, all sharing the same fondness for the expressive lyricism and eloquence inherent in Parry’s songs. SOMM is grateful to Professor Jeremy Dibble whose dedicated research filled in the gaps and organised the English Lyrics into an impressive œuvre, ripe for recording.

To briefly paraphrase Professor Jeremy Dibble’s notes:

For Hubert Parry the generic title of English Lyrics symbolised more than purely the setting of English poetry: it was also an artistic manifesto and advocacy of the English tongue as a force for musical creativity, shaped by the language’s inherent characteristics which set it apart from the German lied or French mélodie. What also gave life to the English Lyrics was the growing popularity of the song at chamber concerts, particularly after the 1890s when the Irish baritone, Harry Plunket Greene, did much to pioneer the solo song recital. Parry was close to Plunket Greene and wrote many of his songs with his voice in mind. It was a relationship later cemented by the marriage of Parry’s daughter to Plunket Greene in 1899.”

In consultation with Jeremy Dibble, Soprano Susan Gritton spent some time studying the songs and making some delightful discoveries along the way. In her own words:

Since the idea of recording the Complete 12 Sets of Parry’s English Lyrics with SOMM emerged earlier this year, it has become our mission to make people aware of their power, depth and sheer lyricism. For us, it has been an extraordinary voyage through this treasury of English Song which has been too long neglected and which, thanks to Professor Jeremy Dibble and SOMM, now appears complete for the first time. Through these recordings we aim to re-frame Parry the musician and private man among the world of pre-Raphaelites and the contemporary movements of his time (his wife was a suffragette and Parry wrote “Jerusalem” for a meeting in 1916 of ‘Fight for Right’, the fight for Women’s Suffrage), thus banishing the widely held notion that Parry was an institutional Victorian with a narrow musical vision. From the hand of the composer who gave us the soaring vocal lines of “I was glad”, here we encounter song writing with piano accompaniments that owe more to the world of Brahms and Wagner than trifles from a Victorian sitting room. His music is complex, it goes well beyond “Jerusalem” and “Blest Pair of Sirens” and is hugely rewarding when studied closely.

Parry was also an inspired teacher whose illuminating influence was beneficial to many of the next generation of British composers, not least to Vaughan Williams one of Parry’s students at RCM who, through Parry’s teaching, widened his own musical horizons and became aware of the greatness of the English choral tradition. I think back now with a tinge of regret that I did not think to question my grandfather and renowned accompanist, Eric Gritton (1889-1983), friend of Vaughan Williams, who had known Parry personally at the Royal College of Music. How interesting and useful his insight and knowledge would have been”.

Winner of the 1994 Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Prize, Susan Gritton read botany at Oxford and London Universities before embarking on a singing career. She is one of the most accomplished lyric sopranos of her generation, acclaimed for her versatility in music ranging from Handel and Mozart to Strauss, Berg and Britten.

James Gilchrist began his working life as a doctor, turning to a full-time career in music in 1996. His musical interest was fired at a young age, singing first as a chorister in the Choir of New College, Oxford, and later as a choral scholar in King’s College Choir, Cambridge. James’ extensive concert repertoire has seen him perform in major concert halls throughout the world.

Roderick Williams encompasses a wide repertoire, from baroque to contemporary music, in the opera house, on the concert platform and in recital. He enjoys relationships with all the major UK opera houses and is particularly associated with the baritone roles of Mozart. He is also a composer and has had works premiered in major concert halls as well as live on national radio.

Andrew West appears regularly with many of Britain’s leading singers, including Robert Murray, Mark Padmore, Christopher Purves, Hilary Summers, Susan Gritton and Roderick Williams. Andrew has received the inaugural Gerald Moore Award for Accompanists. In addition to his extensive career he is also professor of Accompaniment and Chamber Music at the Royal Academy and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Full biographies in the sleeve notes of the CD.

On This Recording

  1. English Lyrics, Set 1: No. 1. My True Love Hath My Heart
  2. English Lyrics, Set 1: No. 2. Good Night
  3. English Lyrics, Set 1: No. 3 Where Shall the Lover Rest
  4. English Lyrics, Set 1: No. 4 Willow Song
  5. English Lyrics, Set 2: No. 1. O Mistress Mine
  6. English Lyrics, Set 2: No. 2. Take, O Take Those Lips Away
  7. English Lyrics, Set 2: No. 3. No Longer Mourn For Me
  8. English Lyrics, Set 2: No. 4. Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind
  9. English Lyrics, Set 2: No. 5. When Icicles Hang By The Wall
  10. English Lyrics, Set 3: No. 1. To Lucas on Going to the Wars
  11. English Lyrics, Set 3: No. 3. To Althea from Prison
  12. English Lyrics, Set 3: No. 4. Why so Pale and Wan
  13. English Lyrics, Set 4: English Lyrics, Set 4: No. 4. Weep You No More, Sad Fountains
  14. English Lyrics, Set 3: English Lyrics, Set 3: No. 6. Of All The Torments
  15. English Lyrics: English Lyrics, Set 5: No. 4. Lay A Garland On My Hearse
  16. English Lyrics, Set 11: English Lyrics, Set 11: No. 7. Why Art Thou Slow
  17. English Lyrics, Set 7: No. 1. On a Time the Amorous Silvy
  18. English Lyrics, Set 7: No. 2. Follow a Shadow
  19. English Lyrics, Set 7: No. 3. Ye Little Birds that Sit and Sing
  20. English Lyrics, Set 7: No. 4. O Never Say that I was False of Heart
  21. English Lyrics, Set 7: No. 5. Julia
  22. English Lyrics, Set 10: English Lyrics, Set 10: No. 6. One Silent Night Of Late
  23. English Lyrics, Set 12: English Lyrics, Set 12: No. 2. To Blossoms
  24. English Lyrics, Set 12: English Lyrics, Set 12: No. 3. Rosaline
  25. English Lyrics: English Lyrics, Set 5: No. 3. Crabbed age and youth
  26. English Lyrics, Set 6: English Lyrics, Set 6: No. 6. Under the Greenwood Tree
  27. Sonnet 32: Sonnet 32, “If Thou Survive My Well-Contended Day”
  28. 4 Sonnets: No. 1. Sonnet 29, “When In Disgrace”
  29. 4 Sonnets: No. 2. Sonnet 87, “Farewell, Though Art Too Dear”
  30. 4 Sonnets: No. 3. Sonnet 18, “Shall I Compare Thee”
  31. 4 Sonnets: No. 4. Sonnet 30, “When to the Sessions”