Hubert Parry, the British stiff upper lip composer for Queen Victoria’s England (pace Elgar) wrote one imperishable work, Jerusalem. He also wrote quite a deal of other fine music including Blest Pair of Sirens and I Was Glad, plus 78 songs. Some are excellent; most of them are quite ordinary. Here we have 23 of them, well performed by Sarah Fox, James Gilchrist, Roderick Williams and accompanist Andrew West. Parry’s choice of poems does not surprise – we see Walter Scott, Keats and Byron in the lists. Mary Coleridge, a close friend of Parry’s, features large.
The collection opens strongly with When Comes my Gwen, a typically robust English song with rippling accompaniment. In similar style is Love and Laughter followed by the thoughtful And Yet I Love Her Till I Die. These songs set the overall tone. Love is a Bable has been set many times and Parry’s version is excellent, brimming with youthful enthusiasm. Songs such as Dirge, If Thou Wouldst Ease My Heart
and What Part of Dread Eternity are simply dull.
On the whole this is civilised if not very compelling music. Sullivan and Vaughan Williams both wrote better English songs. Sarah Fox is an operatic soprano and if I find her heavier vocal style less appropriate for these songs than Roderick Williams and James Gilchrist then put it down to personal taste.