Charles Hubert Hastings Parry – Foolish Fantasia for wind band
(b. 27 February 1848, Bournemouth – d. 7 October 1918, Rustington)
“To finish the frolic, if it will do”
Parry was a very busy musician. By the beginning of the 20th century he was Director of the Royal College of Music, Professor of Music at Oxford, and on the management boards of several organisations including the Royal Philharmonic Society. Yet he never ceased to support his fellow musicians, often former pupils, or to write works for practical use. In being so willingly encouraging, however, he often left us very little by which we can completely understand what was happening. This work is good example.
It is for wind instruments – a large body of orchestral wind, rather than a ‘military’ band. (There are notably no saxophones.) And it uses ten fanfare trumpets. It is clearly intended to close an occasion, because Parry wrote “To finish the frolic, if it will do” on the score, and also because it quotes Auld Lang Syne at letter I. His use of the word ‘frolic’ suggests it was a light-hearted occasion, but the autograph manuscript is very tidy, with ruled bar-lines, and some of Parry’s neatest handwriting.
Beyond that, it is not clear when it was written or what for. The score and parts are held at the Royal College of Music – which suggests it was an event there – but the institution has no record of what it might have been. It was not unknown for an event to be held over a day or so, concentrating on one type of music, so that a ‘wind festival’ is a possibility, particularly one that featured young players as well as more mature students. This is because the piece incorporates two or three tunes that sound like simple exercises for young wind players.
The ten fanfare trumpets are an interesting feature. Parry had first used them in the coronation ode I Was Glad that he wrote for Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902. He revised that ode for the Coronation of George VI and Queen Mary in 1911, in particular by expanding the introduction and the use of the fanfare trumpets (also ten of them). It is possible that the Foolish Fantasia also gave Parry a chance to experiment with them. If so, it would suggest that it dates from either 1901-1902 or more likely 1910-1911 (the style of writing does sound similar to that in the 1911 version).
After an introduction featuring the trumpets, the work continues with a typical Parry theme – extrovert and busily exuberant (letter A). There then follow a number of short themes reminiscent of instrumental exercises (letter C; one, a lyrical tune, could be a song) before the extrovert theme returns in different guise, leading the ‘exercises’ into a collapse into a reference to Auld Lang Syne quietly on the trumpets. The short work ends exuberantly with loud fanfares.
Foolish Fantasia was given a modern performance in 1995 by the combined Market Drayton Orchestra and the Band of the Prince of Wales’s Division, conducted by Phillip Brookes.
Phillip Brookes, 2019
For performance material please contact Musikproduktion Höflich (www.musikmph.de), Munich.