Parry, Charles Hubert


Parry, Charles Hubert

The Song of the Hoopoe for Counter-tenor, treble or soprano & orchestra; from the incidental music to The Birds


Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
(b. Bournemouth, 27 February 1848; d. Rustington, 7 October 1918)

The Song of the Hoopoe

for Counter-tenor, treble or soprano & orchestra;
from the incidental music to The Birds

Parry had only just begun to establish his reputation when he was commissioned to write the music for the Cambridge Greek play of 1883, The Birds by Aristophanes. Cambridge University had recently revived an old tradition of performing Greek plays in their original language, and young composers were invited to provide the music. Parry would eventually provide scores for three more of Aristophanes’s plays, The Frogs (1891), The Clouds (1905) and The Archanians (1913), as well as to Aeschylus’s Agamemnon (1900), whilst composers such as Armstrong Gibbs, Patrick Hadley and Walter Leigh would contribute others. Best-known is perhaps Ralph Vaughan Williams’ music for The Wasps (1909).

The Birds was a success, Parry’s music being praised and a suite of excerpts performed in London, conducted by Charles Villiers Stanford. The music was revived for productions in 1903 and 1924, the latter occasion stimulating the interest of the young Gerald Finzi, who tried (unsuccessfully) to have it published.

A suite of six movements was eventually published by Musikproduktion Höflich in 2006 (MPH score 624) comprising all the purely orchestral items from the 1883 score. The rest of the music consists of very short pieces – accompaniments to interjections from the Chorus – and a single song. It is a setting of two passages, beginning at lines 209 and 227, which constitute the summoning of the birds to a council to discuss a proposal from the human Pisthetaeros that they build a city between man and the gods – Nephelococcygia (Cloud-Cuckoo-Land). The summoner is the chief bird, Εποψ the Hoopoe and the song is a tour-de-force for the singer, who has to maintain its delicate grace while producing some very non-operatic sounds. The original Hoopoe was a Cambridge undergraduate, Mr G. J. Maquay.

The song stands very well on its own, but can be incoporated into the published suite, in which event it should be placed second.

Phillip Brookes, 2016

For performance material please contact Musikproduktion Höflich (, Munich.

The following is a ‘loose’ translation of the Greek text. The song should, of course, be sung in its original language. /

Cast off your sleep, dear friends.
Let the melodious strains of the sacred hymn
burst forth from your throat in soft cadence;
your refreshing melodies bewailing the fate of Itys,
which has been the cause of so many of our tears.
Let your pure notes transcend the yew-tree‘s canopy
even unto the throne of Zeus, where Phoebus hears you:
Phoebus with his flaxen locks;
And his ivory lyre responds to your plaintive call;
he gathers together the heavenly choir,
and from their immortal lips pours forth
a sacred chant of blessed voices.


Epopopoi popoi popopopoi popoi,
here, here, quick, quick, quick, my airborne comrades!
All you who raid the farmer‘s fertile lands,
tribes without count that devour the seeds of barley.
The swift-flying race that sings so sweetly.
And you whose gentle twittering resounds over the fields with
Tiotio tiotio tiotio tiotio!
You dwellers among the branches of garden ivy;
You mountain birds, feeding on wild olives or arbutus,
hurry to come to my call –  trioto, trioto, totobrix.
You too, who devour stinging gnats in the marshlands;
And you who dwell on Marathon‘s beautiful plain,
wet with morning dew.
And you, francolins with wings a-speckled;
you also, the halcyons, gliding above the swelling waves,
come hither to hear the news.
Let the tribes of long-necked birds assemble here.
Know that a wise man has come to us, bringing a new idea,
proposing great changes .
Let all come to the debate here, here, here, here!
Toro toro toro torotix!
Kikkabau! Kikkabau!
Toro toro toro torolililix!

Score No.

Special Edition


Performance Materials




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