Hubert Parry: Jerusalem

Although now far more widely known, William Blake’s poem, ‘And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times’ (he didn’t call it ‘Jerusalem’), was originally included only in a short preface to a much longer one (called ‘Milton, a Poem’).

The text concerns the legend that Jesus might have travelled, with Joseph of Arimathea, to England – in fact, to be precise, to Glastonbury.

When it was included as a patriotic poem in a 1916 collection for a country at war, it immediately caught Parry’s eye. Parry was more than happy, at the suggestion of the Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, to set it to music, calling it simply 'Jerusalem'. And it’s still there, rousing successive generations, usually in its 1922 re-orchestration by Elgar for the Leeds Festival. Despite representing the establishment that Elgar claimed to dislike, both he and Parry had a form of mutual appreciation society in operation: the 1922 orchestration was pretty much an epitaph for his fellow composer, who had died just four years earlier.

Jerusalem has become an unofficial second national anthem and is often used by England at sporting fixtures, such as the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where each of the home nations is represented separately. It has become the official hymn of the English Cricket Board and is usually sung at both the Rugby League Challenge cup Final and the Super League final.

Recommended Recording

The Sixteen; Robert Quinney (organ); Harry Christophers (conductor). UCJ: 1795732.

Illustration: Mark Millington