"… while there is no record of any complete performance [of the Mass Via Victrix], and it cannot even be certain if Stanford orchestrated any part of it [we know now that he did], the Gloria in excelsis, conducted by the composer, was heard in King's College Chapel, Cambridge. The occasion was the revival of an ancient custom - Chancellor's Music - a special concert to honour a University Chancellor. The Chancellor honoured on this occasion was Arthur Balfour, Conservative politician and former Prime Minister. He and several other dignitaries attended a conferral of honorary degrees on the morning of Tuesday 15 June 1920, and after lunch processed to the ceremonial concert in King's Chapel at 3 pm. Although several newspapers list the concert programme in full - apart from Stanford's Gloria it included Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens and pieces by Purcell, Wood, Rootham, Gray, Naylor and Vaughan Williams [so just one concert and Blest Pair was included even if Dibble does not mention it] - the evidence for which items were performed with orchestra and which just with organ is tantalisingly absent. While the Cambridge Chronicle states clearly that Rootham's opening Processional (conducted by the composer) was played by the London Symphony Orchestra, and also mentions the orchestra again later in the same paragraph, the Cambridge Daily News refers to 'a special organ and vocal recital' and mentions no orchestra at all, although the concert concluded with an overture by Naylor (which could, one supposes, have been played on the organ). Other reports in the Cambridge Review and the Musical Times make no reference to instrumental forces. Clearly, however, no effort was spared on the occasion, for the soloists in Stanford's Gloria were four of the best-known singers of the day: Agnes Nicholls, Dilys Jones, Gervase Elwes and Plunket Greene. It is therefore possible that, even if Stanford never orchestrated the other movements of the Via Victrix mass [again, Smith was under a misapprehension here], the Gloria was so treated for this special performance. Certain it is that the concert as a whole created a considerable impression: CamDN judges the 'two outstanding features of the recital' to be the Antiphon from Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs and 'Stanford's beautiful "Gloria in Excelsis"', while CamChr states that 'the effect of the orchestra and chorus in the various combined works [note the word "various" - implicitly, apart from Blest Pair, at least 2 other works used "combined" forces] was magnificent, and especially was this noticeable in "Blest Pair of Sirens", conducted by Sir Charles Stanford'."
To my mind, and considering that even Smith, while under the mistaken impression that no orchestral score had ever been made, speculated that this movement might have been orchestrated for the occasion, surely the default assumption is that the orchestra played in Stanford's Gloria? In legal terms, if it is not proved "beyond reasonable doubt", it seems "more likely than not".
I agree with Paul Corfield Godfrey that the presence of an orchestra is not something that could be easily overlooked, but nor is the presence of a full symphony orchestra brought in from London something that be easily invented by an imaginative journalist, so they must have been there.
A long shot, but if the LSO was transported to Cambridge for the day (and possibly arrived the day before, there must have been a full rehearsal, though I suppose this could have taken place in the morning), there must be some reference in the LSO's own archives. Expenses must have been defrayed and this leaves a paper trail.
Also, did not the assembled dignitaries receive a programme leaflet, and does no copy survive? Possible places are, Cambridge University Library, the LSO archives, and archives pertaining to Arthur Balfour. Papers relating to Prime Ministers are usually conserved with some care. Did he leave a diary?
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