Established in 1883 in the present building of the Royal College of Organists, the Royal College of Music was by 1887 seeking a larger site and early in that year was informally offered one on the west side of Exhibition Road, on behalf of the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners. The foundation stone was laid in July 1890 and the formal opening, by the Prince of Wales, was on May 2, 1894. The hall at the rear was a temporary erection only, and in 1897 the College decided on a competition to provide a permanent building for a concert-hall-cum-theatre and an examination room. It was built, with an examination room underneath, beginning in 1899 and was completed for opening in 1901. The organ, constructed by J.W. Walker, was donated by Hubert Parry, who served as Director of the College from 1895 until his death in 1918. To celebrate the opening of the new Hall and to feature the J.W. Walker organ, Parry crafted a musical setting of Arthur C. Benson’s ‘Ode to Music’. The dedication concert took place on June 13, 1901.

. . . the ode, though slight in structure and scope, is certainly and attractive piece of choral and orchestral writing. The ‘nobilmente’ orchestral introduction, with its swirling appoggiaturas, muscular harmony, and rich tessitura, is comparable in mood and breadth with that of Blest Pair of Sirens, and the opening chorus is effective in its simplicity. Only the central march-like paragraph (‘O march of years’) is wanting in inspiration, but this is offset by the broad, harmonically slow-moving gestures to the fervent last chorus (‘Music, be this thy temple hourly blest’) where Parry shows himself to be a consummate master of choral texture.

from : Dibble, Jeremy. “C Hubert H. Parry – His Life and Music.” Clarendon Press – Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 380-381.

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