Hubert Parry Jerusalem
This month Bridget Mermikides arranges one of our most rousing and popular hymns, made all the more famous by its use as the Last Night Of The Proms closing anthem.
women. It was later arranged for a large orchestra by edward elgar, absorbed into the hymn repertoire and has been co-opted by a wide range of political and cultural movements. It seems there is something in parry’s powerful musical setting of Blake’s words that is irresistibly moving and rousing to many (even opposing) political movements and social groups.
parry took Blake’s words (with minimal editing) and came up with a simple but perfectly judged melody based on its natural spoken rhythms, and inserted (the now iconic) four-bar instrumental introductions to each verse, as well as a coda. what is extraordinarily beautiful in the writing is the All professional classical guitarists pluck the strings using the fingernails. These need to be kept the right length and shaped correctly, so that they create a good plucking action and the best possible tone. Every serious player keeps a variety of nail files and buffers – a big favourite is very fine wet and dry sanding paper. This is used to smooth off the edges of the nails and keep them buffed to a fine polish. The better the nails, the better the tone! voices supporting the melody. In particular, it is reported that Parry took significant pride and pleasure in the suspension in bar 16 - the A against the B note on the first beat, which is then resolved to G. This sophisticated use of dissonance throughout the work adds another level of musical beauty beyond the beguiling melody and lyrics alone, and ensures its enduring popularity (whether people realise it or not).
pleasingly, I’ve kept the original key (supported by drop D tuning), and managed to find a way of making most of the significant musical lines work for the guitar. I’d like to tell you that the moderate tempo and familiarity of the melody makes for an easily played arrangement, but unfortunately there are some inescapable technical challenges. These are largely centred around fretting-hand stretches and repositioning, so refer to the tab captions to help you through the trickier passages.
It may take a while to get this arrangement under your fingers so you can play it with the required fluency, but when you bring your audience to tears with pride, it will all be worth it.