By Tony Cooper
Sunday, June 3, 2012
DAVID Parry has been handed the baton to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra on the 10th music herald barge, the last one of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant making its way from Putney to Tower Bridge in a maritime extravaganza to honour the reign of Elizabeth II.
This grand and majestic event will show off England in all its pomp and glory to the nation.
“I’m greatly looking forward to this very special occasion,” said David, a regular conductor at Garsington Opera – now operating from the Getty family estate of Wormsley in the Chiltern Hills.
“It’s a complete one-off event and the programme will set the Thames on fire. I hope so, anyway. It has a tinge of the Last Night of the Proms about it. Festive, ceremonial and British in spirit.
“The music chosen has been specially devised to be played against iconic landmarks of the Thames. For instance, Percy Grainger’s Country Gardens will be heard as we sail pass Chelsea Botanical Gardens, the band will strike up with Eric Coates’ Dambusters’ March by Thames-moored, HMS Belfast, while Sir William Walton’s incidental music to Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film, Henry V, will be heard as we pass the Globe Theatre, the ‘Wooden O’.
“I simply love English music and one of the pieces we’re playing is regal and English to the core, Walton’s Orb and Sceptre March, which was actually written for the Coronation of the Queen in 1953, so it’s most appropriate.
“The work was greatly influenced by Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1 and 4 and, I’m pleased to say, that March No 1 is also included in our programme.
“However, there will also be a great selection of other well-known pieces, including such delights as Sir Arthur Sullivan’s overture to HMS Pinafore and Sir Hubert Parry’s proud and stirring anthem, Jerusalem, as well as the Fantasia on British Sea Songs arranged by Sir Henry Wood in 1905 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. He was, of course, the founder of the Proms.”
And at Henry Wood Hall in Southwark, David and the LPO have just finished recording a CD on the LPO’s own label comprising music played for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
David’s no stranger to Henry Wood Hall. He has recorded there on numerous occasions but when not recording, his work is split between opera and the symphony – but its opera which is nearest and dearest to his heart.
He founded the Almeida Opera Festival in 1982 and for many years was artistic advisor to Opera Rara.
His latest recording for that company (Bellini’s Il pirata) has just been issued and features the highly-praised Italian soprano, Carmen Giannattasio.
David also found himself in the pit of the London Coliseum conducting the late Anthony Minghella’s English National Opera production of Madama Butterfly, which won the 2006 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production.
It has being revived by ENO this month. He will be back in the pit at the Coliseum next year conducting a revival of Jonathan Miller’s Mikado.
Last year, David was garlanded with the 2011 Gramophone Award for Best Opera – Rossini’s Ermione.
“I simply love bel canto (beautiful singing),” he said, “and you don’t get better than from the pen of the great bel canto-era composer, Gioachino Rossini. At Garsington, I’ve Rossini operas lined up for the next couple of years.”
But at Garsington this year, David will conduct Jeremy Sams’ new production of Offenbach’s delightful and frothy operetta, La Périchole, which features rising Irish soprano star, Naomi O’Connell.
Working in the pit or on the podium, of course, is no exception but working on a floating barge on the Thames is something different, very different.
“It’s the first but, perhaps, not the last,” he enthused.
There’s no doubt about it, David and the LPO will certainly be in the thick of it on what will be the biggest event held on the Thames in living memory. Their musical contribution promises to be one of the highlights of the Pageant.
Adding to the musical forces of the flotilla is none other than British keyboard supremo and Early Music aficionado, Richard Egarr, who will be on the second barge, The Edwardian, performing Handel with the Academy of Ancient Music.
“This is a thrilling opportunity for the AAM,” he said, “and we’re relishing the chance of putting Handel’s glorious music back at the heart of national life, bringing it out of the concert-hall and into the public arena for which it was written.
“We’re not only playing the Water Music but also the Music for the Royal Fireworks. It’s Handel at his most triumphal!”
The Water Music – a collection of orchestral movements – first saw the light of day on July 17, 1717 after George I ordered a concert on the Thames. It was performed by 50 musicians playing on a barge alongside the Royal Barge from which the king listened intently.
He enjoyed and favoured the music so much that he requested two further performances.
And the Music for the Royal Fireworks was written to accompany a grand fireworks party under the patronage of George II in London’s Green Park on April 27, 1749 to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
And yet another musical barge will be ‘on-song’ with a compilation piece penned by 10 leading British contemporary film composers – Anne Dudley, Graham Fitkin, Gavin Greenaway, Christopher Gunning, Adrian Johnston, John Lunn, Julian Nott, Jocelyn Pook, Stephen Warbeck and Debbie Wiseman – who will each contribute a five-minute movement drawing on Handel’s Water Music.
The ‘New Water Music’, therefore, will be 50 minutes in length and is scheduled to have two performances by a 15-strong ensemble comprising brass, strings, woodwind and percussion, plus a trio of instruments which Handel couldn’t call upon in his day – saxophone, marimba and electric keyboard.
Battersea Park will once again come into focus for this event with a riverside festival similar to the one that this famous London Park hosted during the Festival of Britain in 1951.
A figure of 25,000 to 30,000 is the guestimate for participants on the river, which will be packed with 1,000 craft of all shapes and sizes while millions more are expected to cram the banks of the Thames. It’s a royal occasion like no other!
The leading barge – equipped with eight church bells and aptly named Royal Jubilee Bells – hosts a floating bell-tower (a first for the Thames).
Leading campanologist, Dickon Love, from the Ancient Society of College Youths, will lead an eight-strong team to ring a quarter peal which, in turn, will be answered by peals from churches along the route.
The bells – cast at the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry, England’s oldest manufacturing company established in 1570 during the reign of Elizabeth I – will end up at St James’ Church, Garlickhythe, in Vintry ward of the City of London, nicknamed ‘Wren’s lantern’ owing to its profusion of windows.
All of the bells will have the Royal Arms cast upon them and each will be individually named after a senior member of the Royal Family.
The great bell, half a tonne in weight, honours the Queen.
The Queen, with the Duke of Edinburgh by her side, will review the flotilla from the Royal Barge, which has been specially adapted from The Spirit of Chartwell, an existing Thames cruiser which will be decorated with gold-coloured sculptures and red velvet and garlanded with flowers.
Once the pageant is over, The Spirit of Chartwell will go back to its day-to-day job of plying tourists up the Thames.
But to mark the historic occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a new Royal Rowbarge, aptly named Gloriana, will be presented to the Queen as a gift after the festivities are over.
However, the barge will be taking its place in the pageant flotilla and has pride of place leading it while carrying special guests and a complement of the Queen’s Trumpeters for that necessary (and special) fanfare.
Gloriana also makes history by becoming the first state barge in the monarch’s possession for almost a century and it has been designed to carry members of the Royal Family on the Thames for the next century.
Although not equipped to ride the high seas, the 18-oared craft will be the first royal-appointed floating vessel since Royal Yacht Britannia was pensioned off to become an Edinburgh tourist attraction.
The distinguished Suffolk-born composer, Benjamin Britten, wrote his opera Gloriana to coincide with the celebrations for the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
The first performance was given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
And Gloriana is also the name given by the 16th-century poet, Edmund Spenser – recognised as one of the greatest poets in the English language – to his character representing Queen Elizabeth I in his epic poem and fantastical allegory, The Faerie Queene, celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I.
It is recorded that troops at Tilbury hailed Elizabeth I with cries of ‘Gloriana! Gloriana! Gloriana!’ on hearing the news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
At the end of the Thames nautical route an Avenue of Sail – comprising boats too big to chart the waters beneath London and Tower Bridges – will be inspected by the Queen.
Adrian Evans, Pageant Master, spoke of this ‘once-in-a-lifetime event’ and one that will reclaim the Thames as a royal route.
He added: “I’m hoping it will be majestic, joyous, uplifting and patriotic – a fitting celebration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.”