“Alfred,” A Cantata, by E. Prout

Dublin Core


“Alfred,” A Cantata, by E. Prout


Alfred the Great, Alswitha, Anglo-Saxon, Athelney, Battle of Ethandun, cantata, Danes, Ealhswith, England, Mr Grist, Guthrum, libretto, minstrel, music, New South Wales, Norse, NSW, performance, Ebenezer Prout, Raven banner, Redfern, Saxon, St. Paul’s, Sydney, The Sydney Morning Herald, Thor, Valhalla, Viking, Wessex, Y.M.C.A.


This anonymous article in The Sydney Morning Herald on 30 November 1886 is a review of a musical performance about Alfred the Great. The cantata ‘Alfred’ was composed by Ebenezer Prout with a libretto by Mr Grist. The piece is based around Alfred’s battle with the Viking great army and its leader Guthrum in 878 and opens with Alfred at Athelney, where he had been forced to take refuge with his wife Alswitha (Ealhswith) and men following a Viking attack on the royal estate at Chippenham. Alfred eventually enters the Viking camp disguised as a minstrel where he enters a singing competition with Guthrum, which he wins. During the competition Guthrum sings about the Norse god Thor and Alfred a song of love. Alfred and his men later defeat the Vikings at the battle of Ethandun and Guthrum and his followers become Christians. The performance was given to raise money for a new organ at St Paul’s, Redfern, and took place at the Y.M.C.A.

The article can be found at http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28351939

The cantata is based on contemporary accounts about Alfred found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Asser’s Life of Alfred, but the story of him disguising himself as a minstrel to spy on the Viking camp is not found in these sources. It became a very popular tale in the nineteenth century, being the subject of various illustrations and mentioned in works of history.




The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Trove (National Library of Australia)


The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Trove (National Library of Australia)


30 November 1886


No Copyright


Newspaper Article; PDF



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