Fred refers to Frederick Prince of Wales (1707-51) – cricket fan, arts patron, son of George II and father of George III who didn’t live long enough live to become King himself. He died, it is thought, as a result of being hit in the chest by a cricket ball.
The text of the round, based on a contemporary epitaph, has been cleverly arranged for up to 7 ‘voices’ (although in ours we only use 4) and contrasts the Prince’s popularity amongst the British people with the unpopularity of his immediate family.
Fred’s popularity rankled with his family, notably with his mother Queen Caroline who said of him 'Our first-born is the greatest ass, the greatest liar, the greatest canaille and the greatest beast in the world, and we heartily wish he was out of it'. 'My God', she said, 'popularity always makes me sick, but Fritz's popularity makes me vomit'.
The Prince of Wales' epigram on which this song is based was quoted by William Makepeace Thackeray, in "Four Georges"
Here lies poor Fred who was alive and is dead,
Had it been his father I had much rather,
Had it been his sister nobody would have missed her,
Had it been his brother, still better than another,
Had it been the whole generation, so much better for the nation,
But since it is Fred who was alive and is dead,
There is no more to be said!
“Fred” is a round – and can be done in as many as 8 parts, In our version we have gone for just four.
- Short introduction
- Everyone sings the whole tune through once – in unison
- Short orchestral interlude
- The choir splits into 4 parts. Each part comes in at 2 bar intervals singing the whole song through once.
- Once the fourth voice part has finished – everyone joins in with one final note – “Dead!”