“I am sure Fiona’s new Lady Radnor Suite will receive the same recognition as Hubert Parry’s original and I am flattered that it is dedicated to me and my family”
– MELISSA RADNOR
Hubert Parry (composer of the famous anthem ‘Jerusalem’) wrote his Suite in F for string orchestra in 1894 and it was given its first performance on 29 June that year, conducted by Lady Radnor (Helen, the wife of the fifth Earl of Radnor) hence its more popular title ‘Lady Radnor’s Suite’.
Fiona met Melissa when their sons attended the same school. Melissa had enjoyed ‘A Country Suite’ and was delighted when Fiona suggested composing a new and more modern Lady Radnor Suite. Each movement is a snapshot of the family’s life or history beginning with Melissa’s Theme, an elegant and memorable melody and a special tribute to Melissa. Lady in Waiting was Helena Snakenburg, formerly a Maid of Honour to Elizabeth I. She persuaded her husband, Sir Thomas Gorges to build Longford Castle but the project proved too costly until Elizabeth granted Helena the rights to a Spanish Armada wreck. Laden with silver bars. This secured the project and the castle was completed in 1591.
Romance in C for French horn and piano paints a picture of Longford Castle on a misty autumn morning and the following movement On The Banks Of The Avon is a musical image of the river running through the castle grounds. The Nursery is dedicated to Melissa and William’s children and to all the children born at Longford Castle. A Love Forbidden is an original folk song (lyrics by Nia Williams). Supposedly sung by one of the young maids, it tells of her love for the Earl’s eldest son and how she knows they can never be together.
The following two pieces In The Drawing Room and To Live And Die For Thee are in the style of a musical soirée. One of the young ladies of the house plays her Mendelssohn ‘Song Without Words’ style party piece in the Drawing Room after supper and then, a famous soprano friend of Lady Helen, having travelled up from London, entertains the guests. Ragtime was a popular genre during the early part of the 20th century and being a fan of Scott Joplin’s syncopated music, Fiona composed The Radnor Rag as a fun addition to the suite.
Venus In A November Sky is a calming and atmospheric piece. A child clambers out of bed and wanders over to the window. She marvels at the incredible orange winter sunset and notices a single star in the inky black sky, Venus. Longford Castle was inspired by Fiona’s first glimpse of the family home; majestic and breath taking. During WWI, the castle was used as a Red Cross Hospital for wounded British soldiers and using the melody of Tymhorau from ‘A Country Suite’ Seasons tells of a young woman whose fiancé is returning to the battlefields of France once the summer is over. As ever, Nia Williams’s lyrics paint a perfect picture.
The New Lady Radnor Suite ends with a short reprise of the beautiful Melissa’s Theme.