First World War soldiers

Royal College of Music marks centenary year of Sir Hubert Parry and First World War

Tuesday 2 October 2018

This year, the Royal College of Music marks two important centenaries: 100 years since the end of the First World War and 100 years since the death of Sir Hubert Parry. A composer, teacher and historian, Parry was Director of the Royal College of Music from 1895 until his death in October 1918, one month before the WW1 armistice.

Through a specially curated concert series alongside articles, videos and broadcasts, the RCM presents a powerful range of works from the time and explores the Collections to find what they reveal about the College, its students and staff in wartime London.

Professor Colin Lawson commented, ‘Sir Hubert Parry, his legacy and that of the First World War are integral to the RCM’s rich history. I am proud to mark these anniversaries by opening up the RCM’s collections and exploring Parry’s music which evokes so much about this unique period in time.’

Exploring the music

The RCM’s Passing Youth series opens with a concert conducted by alumnus and BBC Proms favourite John Wilson on 25 October. Alongside Vaughan Williams’ third symphony, RCM pianist Nikola Avramovic performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto for Left Hand, written for a pianist who lost his right arm in WW1. Then on 28 October, we remember Sir Hubert Parry in a concert which brings together choristers from the schools – Twyford and Eton – that he attended alongside a Study Day led by Dr Wiebke Thormählen.

Further events in the series include the RCM String Band performing Poulenc and Parry on 2 November, a special Song Plus Series concert on 9 November and a Chamber Concert featuring works by four composers who served in the war on 11 November.

Delving into the RCM Collections

One of the most valued treasures in the RCM collections is Parry’s handwritten manuscript of the coronation anthem I was glad. On 5 October, the anniversary of Parry’s death, a video with RCM Librarian Peter Linnitt will be released featuring the manuscript and explaining its origins, revisions and how it came to be part of the Collection. On 7 October, the RCM’s Director, Professor Colin Lawson, features in a BBC Radio 3 programme alongside Wiebke Thormählen to speak about Parry’s lasting legacy at the College.

Several wartime letters between Parry and friends including Herbert Howells and Millicent Fawcett also exist in the Collection, giving vivid insight into the former Director’s state of mind during his final years. In one letter to Howells, Parry admits: ‘The thought of so many gifted boys being in danger […] is always present with me.’ Now having been transcribed and digitised for the first time, these letters will be explored in a video released on Armistice Day and in this autumn’s edition of Upbeat magazine.

The RCM Library has also launched a digital exhibition which focuses on Parry's particular aptitude for literature and historiographical research. 

Find out more about the Royal College of Music’s Passing Youth series on the RCM website. Follow the RCM on TwitterInstagram and Facebookand use #PassingYouth to join the conversation.

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