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Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet (born Bournemouth, 27 February 1848; died Rustington, near Worthing, Sussex, 7 October 1918) was an English composer. He was born at a time when England was not a very musical country. He started to change this, composing music which was to be a great influence other English composers such as Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Parry wrote a great deal of music, but by far the best known piece he wrote is the song Jerusalem. Another piece which is often sung is the anthem I was glad written for the coronation of Edward VII.
His early life
Parry was born into a rich family. He went to school in Eton and got his music degree while he was still there. He then went to Oxford to study. He learned from the English-born composer Henry Hugo Pierson in Stuttgart, and with William Sterndale Bennett and the pianist Edward Dannreuther in London. He started to compose a lot of chamber music which was first performed at Dannreuther’s house. He became famous in 1880 when Dannreuther played his piano concerto and his choral work Prometheus Unbound was performed at the Gloucester Festival. Other choirs started to ask him to write music for them. One of his best choral pieces was the ode Blest Pair of Sirens (1887). Other choral works include Ode on Saint Cecilia's Day (1889), the oratorios Judith (1888) and Job (1892). “Judith” includes a tune which became a well-loved hymn tune called “Repton” sung in churches to the words “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”.
His orchestral works from this period include four symphonies, a set of Symphonic Variations in E minor, the Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy (1893) and the Elegy for Brahms (1897). He also wrote for the Greek play 'The Birds' by Aristophanes.
As Parry became more famous he got many invitations to important jobs. He started teaching at the Royal College of Music in 1884 and became its director in 1894, a post he held until his death. In 1900 he succeeded John Stainer as professor of music at Oxford University. In 1908 his doctor advised him to resign from his Oxford job.
During the last decade of his life he wrote some of his best works, including the Symphonic Fantasia '1912' (also called Symphony No. 5), the Ode on the Nativity (1912), Jerusalem (1916) and the Songs of Farewell which includes the song “My Soul, there is a Country”. These were songs about the needless suffering in the war. He died of influenza in Rustington, Sussex.
Parry had a lot of influence on English music in the 20th century. This was not just because of his music, but also through his teaching and his writings about music. The composers he liked best and who influenced his style were Bach and Brahms. His music is firmly tonal (always in clear major or minor keys), and Elgar and Vaughan Williams learned a lot from studying his music.
Parry was a man who always liked to help people, and so he took on a great deal of work, which did not do his health much good. When he had free time he enjoyed driving fast cars and sailing.
The house in Richmond Hill, Bournemouth where he was born is marked with a blue plaque.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians ed Stanley Sadie (1980) ISBN 1-56159-174-2