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It’s a huge favourite but it seems that we have all got Jerusalem wrong. Though undeniably rousing, new academic evidence has revealed that the song’s original arrangement called for a solo voice first before segueing into the more familiar grand choral delivery.
Professor Jeremy Dibble, a musicologist in Durham University’s Department of Music, who was researching the music of the song’s composer, Charles Hubert Parry, has made the discovery.
Parry composed Jerusalem in 1916 as a unison song and he then provided an orchestral accompaniment for it two years later. It’s popularity fast increased after its first performance at the Queen’s Hall on March 28, 1916.
Professor Dibble said: “Parry wrote the first verse of Jerusalem for a lone voice, probably a soprano, to be followed by everyone singing together on the second verse to reflect his desire to create a song of strength, hope and unity.
“People clearly enjoyed singing it together in church, at meetings and at The Last Night of the Proms, so much so that we’ve forgotten Parry’s original intention of a solo beginning.”
Originally titled And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times, the song has gone on to be adopted by a wide range of movements. The suffrage movement took it up in1917 and Parry endorsed its use. It was later used as a campaign slogan by the Labour Party in the 1945 general election.
Jerusalem has become a standard of big sporting events, is the anthem of the Women’s Institute, and has been used in many famous films.