Press Play: “I Was Glad” by Hubert Parry

The coronation of King George VII took place in 1902. There hadn’t been a coronation in Britain since 1838, so it was a big occasion. As such, it needed something with big emotion behind it. Parry’s response was the coronation anthem, “I Was Glad”.

The word “glad” doesn’t quite cover the emotion that Parry injected into this one. With trumpets, a six-part choir, and enough fortissimos to make Handel blush, it feels like the title should be something bigger. Like maybe, “I Was Pumped”, or “I Was Super Excited”, or “I Was Worryingly Over-Enthusiastic”.

Maybe Parry went huge with this one because he didn’t get to compose as much as he might have liked to. His life pulled him in various directions; a professorship at Oxford, constant writing about music history, his father’s obsession with wanting him to pursue a career in insurance…all these things meant that few works were ever seen through to completion. But when they did, as here, they were big.

Key moment: On the last line, “plenteousness within thy palaces,” the sopranos wrap it up with an enormous b-flat. Plenteousness indeed.

That makes me think of: Listen to the last 20 seconds of Parry’s masterpiece. Then listen to this. If those two pieces of music aren’t long-lost twins, I’ll sing a b-flat at the next coronation.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”


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