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Resurrecting Rootham and Parry – A Voyage of Discovery. By Alistair Jones
 
As a choral conductor I am always seeking new and interesting works but I hardly expect them to appear on emails from a mail order company. It was in this way that I discovered Cyril Rootham’s For the Fallen. Those readers who purchase CD’s from Amazon on line will know that they frequently follow up your order with a “if you liked that, you may like this” message and display a number of CD’s for your view. A Richard Hickox CD of music by Rootham caught my eye and I ordered it, little thinking that it would set me on a path that has now led me to be transcribing a forgotten work of Hubert Parry.
 
The Rootham CD was marvelous, in particular For the Fallen which I played over and over. It was a work whose name was known to me only through references in books on Elgar. Now here was a work I knew I had to perform and set about researching the performing materials. It will not surprise members of the BMS that this was not an easy task. I discovered that Stainer & Bell had some Rootham in its hire library and the librarian was very helpful in ascertaining that the publisher of For the Fallen had been Novello. I made a fruitless call to Novello Chester and was told that they had never heard of Rootham! Other sources also confirmed that Novello had been the publisher when the work went into print in 1915.
 
A member of my choral society, The Chiswick Choir, obtained a copy of the vocal score – he refuses to tell me the source, and this Novello copy is itself of interest. It was clearly used by a member of the CUMS chorus at the premier. It has the date and performance information inscribed in a neat hand at the top of the first page; First performed 14th March, 1919, in Guildhall, Cambridge, by C.U.M.S. and signed H. Shaw. Also contained in the score is the concert programme, also inscribed by H. Shaw, 14.3.19. This too is a fascinating document. Inside the front cover is a Memorial to those members of CUMS who fell in the Great War and they are listed by college. F.K. Bliss (Arthur Bliss’s brother) is amongst those from King’s College. The orchestral players for this concert are listed at the back of the programme and it is interesting to note that E.J. Dent is there under Kettle Drums! The other works in the concert are Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Butterworth’s Rhapsody – A Shropshire Lad and Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens. Together with the premier of Rootham’s work, it is a significant collection of music. Parry died one month before the armistice which he longed for, having seen so many of his RCM students killed in action. The Roothams and the Parrys were friends, and the inclusion of the Ode to act as a finale to the concert that opened with Beethoven would, I think, have pleased Parry.
 
Listening to the Rootham CD and following this score made me more determined than ever to find performing material for what I consider a masterpiece. I placed a letter in the ISM’s Music Journal asking for information and received a number of helpful replies including one from John Talbot, BMS Chairman, that pointed me in a number of directions. I wrote further to Lewis Forman and to Dan Rootham, the composer’s grandson. These also led me to two interesting contacts, Nick Steinitz and Richard Barnes of Cathedral Music publishing company. While these contacts were useful, they did not lead me to a full score and set of orchestra parts. Having an out-of-copyright vocal score meant that choral material was possible and Richard Barnes readily agreed to produce that for me. Then the obvious solution occurred to me; Rootham had been a distinguished Cambridge don and Director of Music at St. John’s College for many years. I called the librarian at St. John’s who confirmed that they had a number of Rootham works in their “special collections”. My contact with the college was now Mrs. Kathryn McKee, Sub-Librarian, and she told me that they had a full score and set of orchestral parts of For the Fallen. A request was put to the College Council for the loan of this material and this was granted for a concert later this year. (November 26, 2011). In the end, so simple. As the score may be Rootham’s original autograph MS, Richard Barnes is hoping to copy this and the orchestra parts, thus bringing this wonderful choral work back into print.
 
In the course of this research, the correspondence with Nick Steinitz led me on to Parry. He had rescued one of Parry’s choral works from the now (in)famous Novello black hole, The Chivalry of the Sea. Lewis Forman had suggested this work to me as well and as Nick Steinitz has vocal scores and all the orchestral material, this fine Ode, written as a memorial to those who died at the Battle of Jutland, will be performed alongside the Rootham. Curiously, the vocal score of Parry’s Chivalry of the Sea I found in pdf format on the internet, free to download. Even for those of us whose knowledge of Parry’s choral writing is limited to the anthem I was glad and the masterly Blest Pair of Sirens, the quality of his other choral works should not come as a surprise. Relatively recent recordings of The Lotus Eaters, The Soul’s Ransom and the particularly fine Invocation to Music have brought three of Parry’s finest choral works before the public but performances by choral societies still remain a rarity.
 
Having decided on performances of Chivalry of the Sea with the Rootham, I found in my own collection of vocal scores another Parry work that I had acquired 30 years ago while working in Bristol. Two scores were purchased from a sale of music at a rehearsal of the Bristol Choral Society, of which I was organist and accompanist. One score was of Elgar’s The Banner of St. George and the other Parry’s L’Allegro ed Il Pensieroso. Both scores still had the chorus member’s tickets attached. The Elgar had been sung at 2 concerts in October and November, 1914. The first in a “Patriotic Night” on October 28th and the second, in a programme that included Clara Butt and Kennerley Rumford as soloists, on November 12th. Parry’s L’Allegro, together with Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride, had been given on November 10th, 1917. Reading and playing through the Parry, I found that here was another forgotten piece worthy of resurrection. However, one phone call confirmed my fear that L’Allegro ed Il Penseroso had been thrust into Novello’s “black hole” and that no performing material was available. Richard Barnes at Cathedral Music also had a vocal score and he told me that Jeremy Dibble’s book stated that the autograph score was in the library at the RCM. A phone call to Peter Horton at the RCM produced results. I had determined that if I could get hold of a copy of the autograph, I would, using Sibelius Software, produce my own score and set of orchestra parts and, with the collaboration of Richard Barnes, bring another fine forgotten work into print.
 
The copy of the Parry autograph (RCM 4201) was prepared for me with great speed by Dr. Michael Mullen of the RCM and I am most grateful to him for enabling me to get on with this project so swiftly. Prior to receiving the autograph copy, I used the Novello vocal score to copy into a full score framework all the solo vocal and choral music and texts. Parry revised L’Allegro in 1909 and my VS predates that revision. The autograph includes Parry’s revisions in the form of crossings out, cuts and slight alterations to the orchestration. These revisions sometimes include instructions in the composer’s hand, eg. “give 1st clarinet part to 1st oboe”. These notes are extremely helpful, though some of the revisions are written out on a new stave with an arrow pointing to bar where it should take effect. My copy is in A4 format as that is the only size the RCM were able to supply copying from their microfilm, so a magnifying glass has also become a useful tool. However, I am grateful to Peter Horton who has promised me access to the original score when I need to verify some of my transcriptions.
 
So far I have completed the whole of the Introduction and first “scene” of the L’Allegro and most of the second Soprano aria. I think it was Vaughan Williams who advocated copying down a composer’s work to get to know him best. This has certainly been the case thus far with L’Allegro ed Il Penseroso. While I am a great advocate of the new “music technology” and in particular music publishing software, it will certainly be less interesting for future researchers when they have no autograph manuscripts to work on, but only pristine computer generated scores! The Parry autograph reveals a good deal. Copying everything in that detailed score has been an enlightening process. The vocal score has been a useful reference point to check harmonies when pitches of the transposing instruments have been unclear. But much that is in the full score has not been transferred to the vocal score; not so much the transference to the piano arrangement as to the detailed markings. Parry seems most particular in the string and wind phrasing, slurring frequently across the natural rhythmic accents. The score abounds in small accent signs and staccato dots. Rarely does Parry use hairpins for crescendo and diminuendo, preferring dim and cresc written minutely above and below the staves. Parry the conductor leaves little to chance with his orchestral players! Sometimes the composer was aware that the Novello copyist would have difficulty in reading his corrections and so has written in note names. Parry’s writing is neat and at times shows a composer working at speed and with confidence as the music seems to gather pace on the page. In places one can almost sense the composer’s excitement at his own ideas; at the end of the first movement (bar 292ff) an upward rushing figure, marked con fuoco, given to unison violins, is a counterpoint to a brief, triumphant re-appearance of the main theme of the soprano’s aria on 2 trumpets, leading to the full orchestra final cadence – the only bars marked ff in the entire movement. It is a great moment and one can feel the composer writing at speed to get down this thrilling conclusion. While one can hear a certain amount while reading the music, it is the advantage of using the Sibelius software that my Imac computer can play back the score reasonably accurately, tempo, dynamic and articulation markings and all. This is the most exciting thing, hearing the music gradually coming back to life after it has lain silent for so many years.
 
I subtitled this brief article “A Voyage of discovery” as if it had been a great musical adventure. Well, all the best adventures have happy endings and the conclusion of the journeys, for both Rootham and Parry, is, on the one hand, the re-appearance of the music in print, making them available again to choirs and orchestras. On the other, the 2 concert dates when For the Fallen, The Chivalry of the Sea and L’Allegro ed Il Pensieroso will be heard again, the latter for the first time in almost 90 years. On November 26th later this year, The Chiswick Choir will give a programme of Parry’s the Chivalry of the Sea, Rootham’s For the Fallen and Eine Deutsches Requiem of Brahms. On December 1st, 2012, The Chiswick Choir will perform L’Allegro ed Il Pensieroso along side Elgar’s The Banner of St. George and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia. Both concerts will take place in St. Michael and All Angel’s Church, Bath Road, W4. Full details of the concerts will appear on the choir’s website in due course – www.chiswickchoir.org.uk. These are two important occasions, giving opportunities to hear three rarities from the British music choral repertoire. I am hoping that the resurrection of this wonderful music will inspire other organizations to programme them and bring them before a wider, appreciative public.
 
AJ.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


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