Royals sing at coronation

The best Coronation music: five service highlights

A compilation of the five top new compositions and ancient traditional tunes heard at Charles and Camilla’s coronation.

There were a dozen new pieces written for the service which made the soundtrack for the ceremony celebrations that filled the historic Westminster Abbey.

The King reportedly wanted the congregation to leave humming the tunes.

Zadok the Priest

The biblical words of Zadok the priest come from 1 Kings 1: 39–40. They have been used since the coronation of Edgar in 943, the service of which was based on the coronation of King Solomon.

The lyrics ‘Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king’ reflect this. The accompanying music was composed by George Frideric Handel for the Coronation of George the Second in 1727, and has been used in coronations since.

Perhaps best known by most however by football fans as it has been the official anthem of the champions league since 1992.

Veni, Creator Spiritus

This multilingual hymn calling on the Holy Spirit was sung in four different languages from around the United Kingdom after the Sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

After the sermon the King sat in the coronation chair whilst he was anointed and the ancient piece Veni, Creator Spiritus was sung. As this anoitment with holy oil was the most sacred part of the ceremony and coronation rite, the King was shielded by a screen.

For those in the congregation and watching remotely, this music was a fantastic focal point to reflect whilst the King undertook this private, solemn and important moment. The choir powerfully accompanied the holy annointment in English, Irish, Gaelic, and Welsh, representing people from all over the British Isles. Written by Rabanus Maurus (c780–856) and translated into plainsong by John Cosin during the 17th century, the work was translated in its modern arrangement by Grahame Davies, Iain Urchadan, and Damian McManus.

Make a Joyful Noise

This tune was devised especially for their majesties’ coronation by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who is famed for his musical works in Cats, Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, and The Phantom of the Opera. Lloyd Webber suggested to King Charles this piece be based on Psalm 98 due to its appropriate message of ‘Make A Joyful Noise unto the Lord, the King.’

The piece also may have been a nod to the newly crowned King’s love of the environment and his long standing work to protect the environment. The choir sung: ‘Let the sea roar, the world and they that dwell within. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth.’

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “I hope my Anthem will encourage everyone across the country to go and ‘Make A Joyful Noise’ in honour of this fantastic national occasion, and will be sung by many at other joyful occasions in the future.”

Te Deum Laudamus

This hymn was written by 20th century composer William Walton and arranged by John Rutter for the Coronation of Charles’ mother. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned 70 years ago in 1953 following her father George VI’s death in 1952.

This was the penultimate hymn in today’s service and gave poignance to the connection to the new monarch’s predecessor and late mother.

The choir was conducted through this beautiful rendition by Andrew Nethsingha, Master of the Choristers and Organist at Westminster Abbey.

God Save the King

Saving the best until last, of course we heard God Save the King, one of the most well known tunes in the world, was a unifying end to the service.

The national anthem was accompanied by some very deep and dramatic organ playing by Peter Holder which added to the atmosphere of significance whilst the royals paraded out of the historic London place of worship Westminster Abbey, which has celebrated 40 coronations of various kings and queens over the centuries.

Everyone sang along in support of their majesties, including even Prince Harry, plus many voices will have echoed the music in unison to celebrate across the many countries that Charles and Camilla are now crowned King and Queen of. 

Featured image credit: BBC

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7 May 2023 4:52 pm

The Te Deum by William Walton was certainly composed by him for the Coronation Service of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. But the arrangement by John Rutter was undertaken specifically for Charles’s Coronation and heard for the first time at the end of the service on Saturday, May 6th 2023.

Christine James
Christine James
7 May 2023 8:05 am

What about the Welsh Kyrie sung by Bryn Terfel and the choir. So powerful and passionate.
Then the Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) choir again calling on the Holy Spirit.
Then there was the Alleluia by the Gospel choir.
These 3 should be included in the list of great music from the Coronation.

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