Jerusalem (Sir Hubert Parry, arr. Philip Sparke)

Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918) set William Blake’s Preface to Milton to music for a rally of the ‘Fight for the Right’ movement in the Queen’s Hall, London, in 1916. It became more generally known as ‘Jerusalem’ when Parry conducted it in 1918 at a concert to mark the final stage in the Votes for Women Campaign, after which it was adopted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (and is still sung at meetings of WI Groups all over Britain). Sir Edward Elgar added his orchestral accompaniment in time for the Leeds Festival of 1922, since when it has become a popular national hymn which now traditionally ends the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. This work also made an appearance in the 1981 Academy Award winning movie Chariots of Fire.

The theme is uniquely English, and there is an undertone of 19th Century politics. The lyrics may refer to folklore that says Jesus visited Britain in his youth with Joseph of Arimathea, who was said to be a distant relative, and had a stake in Cornish tin mines. However, there is no historical data supporting this story.