Pax Christi Chorale is hard at work preparing the North American premiere of Sir Hubert Parry’s oratorio Judith.
Why has a major oratorio by one of Britain’s best-loved composers been neglected for 125 years? Pax Christi Chorale is determined to turn the tide on Parry’s unjust obscurity in the realm of oratorio. You will be the first North American audience to hear a complete performance of Judith when this dramatic work is revealed at Koerner Hall on Sunday, May 3rd, 2015.
The first performance of Judith in 1888 was very favourably received. Though Parry was self-critical and struggled with the score, Judith was an overwhelming success. However, like many objects of Victorian design, masterfully crafted with vibrant detail, vivid emotional and dramatic character, Parry’s music fell out of favour with the twentieth-century crowd.
One practical reason for the disappearance of Judith has been Novello’s reluctance to make the score and parts available. To solve this difficulty, we have undertaken a project to create a new, digital edition of the score, with the help of the foremost Parry scholar, Jeremy Dibble from Durham University in the UK and a team from Toronto’s York University.
Our March CAMMAC reading of Judith will be the first reading of this new score.
Judith is full of dramatic plot twists. The King is about to sacrifice his children to the fiery god Moloch while the Queen tries to comfort her children in a moving scene with the enduring tune Repton (Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.). Judith intercedes to stop the sacrifice, endangering her own life, when the Assyrian army invades. She steals into General Holofernes’ tent and kills him, thus saving her people from certain defeat.
The music of Parry’s Judith has been examined and tested in Toronto’s toughest test kitchen – my own living room with twenty singers, both professional and amateur, gathered around my piano some ten months ago, singing through the entire score. It passed the test unanimously.
The lead solo singers have been cast, the hall has been booked, and the process of raising funds for the first ever recording of Judith is underway. We have an unprecedented opportunity to be the first choir in the world to record this major work.
Tickets are available through the Koerner Hall box office (416.408.0208) and online.
I look forward to seeing you on May 3rd!