JUDITH – AN ORATORIO BY C HUBERT H PARRY
WEDNESDAY 3 APRIL 2019 – ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, LONDON
A revival of a neglected masterpiece
‘It is the offspring not only of a finished musician but of a cultivated thinker. For such a possession art is the better and England the richer.’
Charles Villiers Stanford, 1888, on Judith.
The London English Song Festival’s revival of Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s Judith took place at Royal Festival Hall, London, on 3rd April 2019. It was be one of the most important revivals of English music for many years: a work of considerable stature and quality, Judith had not been performed in full in the UK since 1922 and in London since 1889. Parry was the master of large choral and orchestral forces, and Judith features spine-tingling choruses and a dramatic story. Judith was an overwhelming success in Victorian England, performed by some of that era’s greatest musicians. Hans Richter conducted the premiere and Stanford conducted the London debut. It contains the melody that later, under the name Repton, became the famous hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, but has been largely neglected for the best part of a century and never recorded.
Interest in this captivating tale of the deeds of one of the most famed of biblical characters had been building since a 2015 performance in Canada. Conducted by LESF Director William Vann, the London Mozart Players, Crouch End Festival Chorus performed alongside a quartet of top-ranking soloists. Judith was then recorded for Chandos Records later that month in three days of sessions at St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead. This recording of Judith will be a crucial tool to promoting further performances across the UK and internationally.
The London English Song Festival’s project also included a schools workshops on the day of the concert performance and a rigorous training project for a group of child performers. Education is at the heart of the LESF’s mission: we brought one of the most important works of its day to new audiences, young and old, and ultimately aim to restore its place in the musical repertory for the future.
We heartily thank Professor Jeremy Dibble for his help with this project, and are thrilled that he gave the pre-concert talk on the day of the revival concert. Professor Dibble is the word’s leading expert in English music of the late 19th century, and choral music is a particularly strong specialism of his. His monograph C. Hubert H. Parry: His Life and Music (Oxford: OUP, 1992 rev. 1998) is one of the leading texts on the subject of this great English composer and his tireless support has been invaluable.
London Mozart Players
William Vann – conductor
Sarah Fox – soprano: Judith
Kathryn Rudge – mezzo-soprano: Meshullemeth, wife of Manasseh
Toby Spence – tenor: Manasseh, King of Israel
Henry Waddington – bass-baritone: High Priest of Moloch & Messenger of Holofernes
Crouch End Festival Chorus (Chorus Master: David Temple)
The story of Judith has captured the imagination of painters and writers throughout the centuries. She is a female leader in a world of men who have lost their way. Brave, intelligent, with strength of purpose, Judith triumphs over one of the most fearsome warriors of her time, redeems her King and leads her people to wisdom.
William Vann, conductor and artistic director writes “From the first time I came across Judith, I have felt this huge and important work has been unfairly neglected, and I am thrilled to be able to put together this project to revive it. I was particularly interested in the potential for a performance from mixture of professional musicians, both young (such as the role of Judith herself) and old (the bass-baritone soloist plays the part of the High Priest) and children. The latter group in particular will benefit hugely from this project and the time that can be provided by professional, experience musicians to coach and train them, plus the experience of performing in a prestigious venue and making a professional recording.”
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London English Song Festival is a registered charity, no. 1159818