ISSUE 12, January 2005

Kitchener of Khartoum: Mason extraordinary
Travel: Where east meets west
Veteran Honoured: Old soldier remembered
Royal Masonic Family: The Six Masonic Sons of George III, Part 1
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro First Grand Principal and, Report of the Committee of General Purposes
  Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London: London's first consecration
Soccer: Man in the Middle
Wales: Joseph Parry - flawed genius?
Library & Museum: Donations gather pace
Education: Dates for your diary and, Planning a 'white table' and, Looking to the future and, Time marches on
Grand Charity: General meeting and non-Masonic grant list
Masonic Charities: Reports from the four main charities
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Joseph Parry on his appointment at the University College, Aberystwyth in 1874

Joseph Parry - flawed genius?

Joseph Parry was the most important Welsh musician of the 19th century and his standing among Welsh musicians became almost legendary. A great musician? Yes. A great composer? Well.... A successful composer of small miniature works? Emphatically YES especially with his songs, part songs, anthems, choruses and hymn tunes.
     His large-scale works, both vocal and instrumental, were not successful, apart from his first opera, Blodwen. Between 1878 and 1896 the opera was performed over 500 times in Wales, England and America.
     He had male choruses from his opera Blodwen performed at his Lodge! In Blodwen, for better or for worse, his male voice part song Myfanwy is instantly recognised all over the world, as are famous hymn tunes like Aberystwyth, Sirioldeb. Dies Irae etc.
     Blodwen, which was the first opera written by a Welsh composer, was given its gala performance at the Temperance Hall, Aberystwyth on 21 May 1878, though the work had been completed in 1876, the year Parry became a joining member of the Lodge, Aberystwyth Lodge No. 1072, on 9 March.
     The Lodge met at the Belle Vue Hotel, on the promenade at this time. It has been stated more than once that he had been a member of a London Lodge whilst a student at the Royal Academy of Music from 1868-1871. However, there is no proof at all to substantiate this in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. As far as the Lodge performance is concerned, Parry refers to this in a letter dated October 28, 1878: was in the Lodge's Complimentary Concert to me for acting as Organist of your Lodge that Blodwen was first performed so that it was the masons brought out my important work.

     Also interesting is that he composed a song with Masonic overtones in 1875, Ysgytwad y Llaw The Handshake.
     Joseph Parry first saw Masonic light at Mahoning Lodge No. 224 at Danville, Pennsylvania on 21 January 1867. He was passed on 19 February and raised on 21 March 21 of that same year. His occupation given was `music teacher.'
     The Lodge is known since 2002 as Danville-Mahoning Lodge No 224. Parry remained a member until 2 December 1879, when he as suspended for non- payment of dues.
     `Suspension' in this context means that as far the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was concerned, Parry had just disappeared, had become ill or died, or simply moved without anyone ever notifying his mother Lodge there.
     The following year, 1880, he paid his final dues as a member of Aberystwyth Lodge No. 1072, as well as moving from his house at Ffordd Ddewi to a much larger house at 16 Ffordd Llanbadarn where he opened his own school of music.
     He and his family left for Swansea some time after April 1881. He does not appear to have joined a Lodge again. The reason for this was probably pressure of work and that he spent so much time away conducting festivals and adjudicating in Wales, England and the US.
     As a Victorian composer, he stands second only to Sir Arthur Sullivan, who was also a Mason. Freemasonry was popular among many Welsh cultural leaders, especially with regards the National Eisteddfod, not only in the 19th century when London was the centre of its governance, but also well into the first half of the 20th century. Joseph Parry was certainly one of the most colourful of them.

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