Wise Music Group composers at The Coronation
4th May 2023
The Coronation of Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort will take place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday May 6th 2023. The Service will include new compositions by The Master of The King’s Music, Judith Weir, Paul Mealor, Tarik O’Regan and Debbie Wiseman. These new commissions are published by Chester Music Ltd and Novello & Co Ltd.
His Majesty The King has personally commissioned the composers, and has shaped and selected the musical programme for the Service, that will showcase musical talent from across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. A range of musical styles and performers will blend tradition, heritage and ceremony with new musical voices of today, reflecting The King’s life-long love and support of music and the arts.
In total, six orchestral commissions, five choral commissions and one organ commission, have been specially composed for the occasion by world-renowned British composers whose work includes music in the Classical, Sacred, Film, Television and Musical Theatre genres.
The first Pre-Service commission will be a short overture composed by Judith Weir, Master of The King’s Music, Brighter Visions Shine Afar, which will be performed by the Coronation Orchestra conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. Speaking about the significance of the composition, Weir said: “The opening passage highlights the horns, an instrument historically associated in music and art with nobility. The title borrowed from the Christmas hymn 'Angels from the Realms of Glory' and the optimistic rising scales of the music suggest renewal and hope for the future.”
New choral commissions included in the main Service will be directed by Andrew Nethsingha, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, and will feature the expanded choral forces of the Choir of Westminster Abbey and The Choir of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, girl choristers from Truro Cathedral and Methodist College, Belfast, joined by singers from the Monteverdi Choir.
Movements of the mass have been commissioned by His Majesty The King. Paul Mealor has composed his Coronation Kyrie for choir and the bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel. This work sets a Welsh translation of the text by Grahame Davies and is the first time that Welsh has been included in a Coronation Service.
Speaking of the work, Mealor says: “My Kyrie is set in the Welsh language which means that it will be the first time that Welsh has ever been sung at a Coronation. It is a meditative, introspective piece based on a blend between Gregorian chant and ‘Cerdd Dant’ (Welsh Penillion singing – an important part of eisteddfodau). I was inspired by the great Welsh hymns – Aberystwyth, Cwm Rhondda, Ar Lan Y Môr – and the composition is ‘coloured’ by the harmonies of these hymns. It is a cry from the deep soul of the hills and valleys of Wales for hope, peace, love and friendship
Pre-order sheet music now for the new choral commissions at musicroom.com
The Gloria is the setting by the English composer William Byrd (c.1540-1623) from his Mass for Four Voices, edited by Henry Washington and published by Chester Music. This setting of the mass was written around 1592-1593 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Debbie Wiseman has composed two choral settings for the service, Alleluia (O Clap Your Hands) and Alleluia (O Sing Praises).
Alleluia (O Clap Your Hands) will be sung as the Gospel Acclamation by the expanded Westminster Abbey Choir, and Alleluia (O Sing Praises) will be performed by The Ascension Choir directed by Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah. Speaking about her compositions, Wiseman said: “The Coronation is a solemn religious ceremony and the natural inclination is to go for a reverential hymn-like approach, but I was keen to make this piece, above all, joyful and celebratory of the new King and the new era. Part of the liturgical text says “O sing unto God with the voice of melody” and when my melodies are sung by the wonderful voices of the world-renowned Choir of Westminster Abbey, I can’t absolutely confirm they’ll reach heaven but they’ll certainly raise the roof.”
On writing for The Ascension Choir, Wiseman said: “This supremely professional, talented and experienced choir (comprising 4 male singers and 4 female singers) – the first gospel choir, of course, to perform at a Coronation - will warm everyone’s hearts.”
The Quire Stalls, Westminster Abbey © Dean and Chapter of Westminster
After the King is crowned the Coronation Brass Ensemble conducted by Paul Wynne Griffiths will perform the Wiener Philharmoniker Fanfare (Vienna Philharmonic Fanfare) by Richard Strauss in a new arrangement by Paul Mealor. Mealor says: “It was a true honour to have been asked to arrange Strauss’s Vienna Philharmonic Fanfare for the very specific acoustics of Westminster Abbey for a very special part of the ceremony. The work, one of His Majesty’s favourites, is both gripping and dramatic. My arrangement seeks to keep this sense of drama whilst marrying it to the very specific acoustics of the Abbey. This is music of celebration, of an uplifting spirit and of togetherness with a deep sense of ‘moment’.”
His Majesty commissioned Tarik O’Regan, whose music he remembered having heard at Lincoln Cathedral in 2006. Such was the impact of the work that The King commissioned O’Regan to write the Coronation Agnus Dei for a reflective moment during the Coronation Service. O’Regan said: “I wanted to explore influences from my own varied heritages within the context of the Agnus Dei in the British choral tradition: a unison melody is slowly fragmented to create myriad timbres, much as one might hear in some Arab or Irish traditional music. This melodic shifting is also reminiscent of 'phase music', strongly connected with San Francisco, where I wrote this work. Finally, there is an alternating verse anthem structure: a nod to Orlando Gibbons, who became Organist of Westminster Abbey exactly 400 years ago.”
Other music published by Novello & Co Ltd included in the Coronation Service includes the Hymn Praise my soul the King of Heaven by John Goss with the descant by Christopher Robinson, as well as the National Anthem by Thomas Arne arranged by Gordon Jacob. Organ music includes Flourish for an Occasion by William H Harris and Chorale Fantasia by Charles Hubert H Parry.
Decca Records will release the official album of the Coronation. The digital Album, to be released on the day, will be four hours long. The physical version will follow, featuring the entire service an all new commisions, released on May 15.
Listen here to the Official Album of the Coronation.