Category Archives: other

Pope says goodbye, leaves Libera memory

With today’s news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning I want to look back at this Libera memory. It was during the Pope’s visit to the United States in 2009 that Libera got to perform there, during a special Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York. A massive achievement for a group of boys from South London!

I was already familiar with Libera when I saw this, but I was not a fan yet. Somehow the turning point came during one of my viewings of this performance.
You will notice they are squinting their eyes – apparently this was because of the bright stadium lights. Another anecdote about this performance is that they had to catch a plane soon after, leaving no time to change back into their normal clothes, so they boarded in their full white robes!

During the broadcast of the Pope’s visit to Lebanon last year, the Vatican put Libera music in the background. Maybe someone remembered their angelic voices from 2009. Maybe Benedict himself is a fan! Let’s hope the new Pope will keep the Libera connection intact.

A piece of fan art I made:

6056010935_76495d289a_z

Advertisements

St. John’s College Choir in Nijmegen

You’ve heard about the Night before Christmas. Well, this year I got to experience the Weekend before Christmas. Because basically Christmas started one weekend before the actual date, with the singing of O Come All Ye Faithful in a packed Stevenskerk in Nijmegen with the St. John’s College Choir! 🙂

The renowned St. John’s Choir gave a splendid Christmas themed concert, in what director Andrew Nethsinga considers his favourite church in the Netherlands, because of the wonderful acoustics. And wonderful it did indeed sound – and look too, with a life size nativity scene in the background, trees glowing with starlike lights and candles burning in the chandeliers above our heads.

IMG_8143 klein

A great atmosphere for a night I’d been looking forward to. Earlier this year, I witnessed the King’s College Choir live in concert and now it was time to get a taste of their neighbouring ‘rivals’.

Without any introduction the choristers filed onto the stage and a solo tenor voice started the Gaude, gaude, gaude, Maria by John Sheppard, a gorgeous and elegant polyphonic piece with bits of old plainchant still intact. I find I quite like these old pieces which have the original plainchant melodies still in them, like the way you can sometimes see original wall paintings in a church that’s been around for ages. Luckily, some ideas change along with the development in music, as the rather dubious sentence, sung in plainchant, about Jews who do not believe in the divine nature of Christ, proved. It was amazing to hear how tight and controlled the choir sounded, like Nethsingha was just manipulating dials on a machine, rather than making calm and concentrated gestures in front of human beings. The trebles seemed to roll and shine on top of the lower voices, and were almost singing as one, while the distinction of the adult voices (countertenors, tenors and basses) served to adorn the fabric on which the high notes were woven. This long first piece was followed by an organ solo, a Prelude and Fugue in C by Bach. I wasn’t always fond of the heavier sounds coming from the organ but loved the more flute- and brasslike sounds in the joyful fugue.

IMG_8147 klein

Up next was the Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten, accompanied on a harp with a beautifully adorned gold column. The boys and men filed in procession to the stage whilst singing. Because they were at first invisible, and we could see the life size nativity scene in the background (which was part of a small exhibition of nativity scenes), the ilusion was created of angels coming down to sing the praises of the newborn Jesus. Very moving.

IMG_8146 klein

Tonight’s arrangement of the Ceremony by Julius Harrison included the lower voices, which was cleverly done, but for me took away some of the unique charm of Britten’s work. Nevertheless, the dramatic impact of This little babe was undeniable. The choir performed it with an almost military force, in concordance with the lyrics, and left at least myself and the lady in front of me breathless. The interlude for harp solo which followed could not have been more perfectly timed. A lovely, enchanting, tender piece, that had the boys and men crowded around the harp player with rapt attention, as if they were crowded around the crib in the stable in Bethlehem.
In freezing winter night, the next piece, had a beautiful solo, though at the final two words (“doth bring”) the boy’s voice sounded a bit rumbling. But perhaps the boy will one day grow up to become one of the choir’s hallmark roaring basses 😉 (some of which, by the way, were pretty handsome lads ;)). The Ceremony ended with the same piece it started with, and the boys and men had to make sure they formed a neat procession again, which for some of the younger ones was a bit difficult 😉 The choir continued singing all the way in the back of wherever they disappeared to, until the absolute faintest “Alleluia” could be heard, truly fading into silence. Magnificent.

During the interval it was time for coffee and a visit to the merchandise stand, where we bought, how appropriate, the album “On Christmas Night”.

51gF11-f1jL._SL500_AA300_

Looking forward to listening to it in the coming days! We also wandered around and enjoyed the church interior and some of the nativity scenes on exhibition.

IMG_8148 klein

IMG_8160 klein

IMG_8163 klein

What a nice treat to add to a wonderful concert!

In theatres you have bells that ring to tell you it’s time to get back to your seat again, in churches you just let the organ play a few notes 🙂 So back in our seats we were for the second half which began with a piece that I was really looking forward to, and which – I think – I had never heard live before: Allegri’s famous setting of Psalm 51, Miserere mei. Truth be told, it did not have the impact I had expected but perhaps that was due to my feelings of anticipation. Nevertheless I got goosebumps when they started. It was interesting to experience it live, as it added more dynamics to the different parts in regard to where the sound came from: the plainchant tenor part, the bits with high and low voices together and ofcourse the famous treble solo line. Nethsingha employed two boys for this, alternating one another: one older boy with a ‘thinner’ voice who had to make some effort to get the job done, and a younger, smaller boy with a rounder voice, who sang it with just as much intensity as if he were ordering a loaf of bread at the bakery – in other words, I couldn’t believe how well he sang it with such little emphasis 🙂 Again the choir departed, and two organ pieces by Bach followed: Gottes Sohn ist kommen and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. The first one contrasted dry low sounds with a high melody, the second piece was again very joyful.

The final part of the programme was made up of different shorter Christmas pieces from all parts of the globe and from many different eras. My favourite carol of all, Silent Night, was probably THE highlight for me. I closed my eyes and dreamed away, to my memories of the shepherd’s fields in Bethlehem that I visited in February this year, mingled with memories of Christmas celebrations as a child. During the concert I often enjoyed watching the choir sing, their expressions etc, but for this piece I just wanted to revel in the sound alone. Very, very moving.
The peace and calm of Silent Night was paired with the bouncing energy of Tomorrow shall be my dancing day, employing the rich contrast between the bell-like trebles and sturdy men, followed by a boisterous power piece for the men, Riu, riu chiu. Each verse was sung completely a cappella by a different singer, and it was amazing to hear them sing so many words in Spanish in such a rigorous tempo and with such conviction. Bravo!

Two completely different settings of the same text followed: Bogoroditse Dyevo (‘Hail, Mother of God’) by Pärt and Rachmaninoff. The Pärt version was another amazing example of this choir’s control of volume and intensity at the most detailed level, again as if Nethsingha was operating a machine, though there was nothing detached in this warm and convincing performance. For the Rachmaninoff piece I once again closed my eyes and bathed in the voices, which gave the typical St. John’s intensity at the full-on climax near the end. Again the church showed its great acoustics, with all the voices kept clear and tight and the echo ringing just long enough. The same trademark intensity was showcased in Peter Wishart’s Alleluya, a new work is come on hand, which sounded just as festive as the title suggests and fit the choir like a glove. And then it was already time to rise and stand for the final piece and to sing with full gusto former King’s director Sir David Willcock’s arrangement of the famous Christmas classic O Come All Ye Faithful. Like my boyfriend said afterwards, it’s hard to get back in Advent mood for three remaining days after this!

Receiving a standing ovation, the beaming Nethsingha and his proud choir could not resist two encores: Tavener’s The Lamb, just glowing with dissonances and melody, and a comic barbershop interpretation of Jingle Bells sung by the men, complete with thigh slapping and finger snapping, as Andrew Nethsingha lounged on the side of the stage, enjoying it all, like everyone around him did as well. A wonderful night and a perfect runner-up for the real Christmas celebrations that are coming soon.

I wish everyone, whether you follow my blog or just dropped by, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, filled with joy, love and music! See you in 2013!

Israël 427

Lully, lullay ~ for Newtown

This song by composer Philip Stopford was sung by the Roden Boys Choir last year during the Christmas season. The words are based on the Coventry Carol, which takes its inspiration from the account of the murder of the innocent children, in the Gospel of Matthew. I was reminded of this song again today and felt a shock when I realised the words could have been written today, for the victims of the shooting in Newtown.
May this haunting piece of music serve to remind us that no matter how shattered we may feel, we can always sing a song of grief for those who were made silent.

Collegium of Cappella Nicolai, Amsterdam

As I was too tired to go to church today, I decided to watch the weekly Mass broadcast on TV instead, which is aired from a different church every week. I was pleasantly surprised to see that today’s broadcast came from the St. Nicholas church in Amsterdam. I have fond memories of its services and know people who have sung or still sing there, and what’s more, since yesterday this 125 year old church can call itself a basilica, which is basically a royal stamp in church terms. Today’s liturgy therefore included the anointing of the altar by the bishop and a rich splendour of glorious singing by the Collegium of Cappella Nicolai. Especially the Victoria, Lauridsen, Pärt and Tavener pieces were amazing (…wait, that’s almost the entire service ;)). Four of my favourite composers in one service… I just wish they would never stop singing! Director of music Michael Hedley is renowned for his professional approach – ofcourse, we can’t expect less from an Englishman 😉 (And all this just four days after the traditional Dutch St. Nicholas celebration!)

Here’s the full service for you to enjoy:

cap nicolai

Music sung during the service:

Victoria: Vidi aquam
Palestrina: Stetit angelus
Lauridsen: O nata Lux
Pärt: O Holy St. Nicholas
Tavener: Apolytikion for St. Nicholas
Hassler: Agnus Dei, Missa Octo Voci

King’s College Choir in Rotterdam

Heavenly skies for heavenly voices. That’s what we got on our train ride to Rotterdam, to hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge live in concert. A surprise birthday gift for my boyfriend 🙂 And as you can see, the dramatic late summer skies helped set the mood in advance.

King’s performed in one of the best concert halls in the Netherlands, De Doelen, which not only has great acoustics but looks splendid as well. Check out the artwork in the hallways and the sci-fi organ on stage ^^

But ofcourse we were here for the music. For both of us it was the first time to witness this world renowned choir in the flesh. Not in their natural habitat in Cambridge, but still. We were seated on row 5, which gave perfect view and proximity for listening.

I came with several questions to this concert and all of them have been answered. Firstly, how they would sound in this surroundings, which they are not very familiar with. Well, the answer is: great! It truly was a treat to be able to hear the voices in the space of this hall.

Another question I had was if they could make my heart beat faster for Palestrina. For some reason, Palestrina never got to me. I always think of his pieces as beautiful, but I don’t get a lot of feeling out of them. Would King’s be able to change my opinion? Well, they are! The first two pieces of the evening, Super flumina Babylonis and Stabat Mater, both a cappella, really moved me and also got me to the edge of my seat. The Stabat Mater in particular was exciting from start to finish.

Next up was an organ piece that I didn’t particularly like to be honest, also because of the unexpected sound of the organ which I found pretty strange.
It was interesting to look at the choristers who were listening. Generally they looked like they were given a lecture on some incredibly tedious subject. One boy though was moving his head along to the melody and playing along with his fingers, like he was listening to his favourite hit song ^^ I watched him a bit more from then on and he seemed very much into the notes, also when he wasn’t singing himself. It made me wonder who of the boys in the choir will later continue in music.

Full attention again for the next piece, a favourite of mine, They that go down to the sea in ships by Herbert Sumsion. This I know very well from the Roden Boys Choir so it gave a nice opportunity to compare the two choirs and their sounds. King’s is bigger, so has a fuller sound, especially in the full choir fortissimo parts. Director Stephen Cleobury also opted for a slower pace and an emphasis on colour rather than structure in the dynamics of the piece.

Already one piece left before the interval but it was a long one, The Wilderness by Samuel Wesley. It had hints of The Messiah to my ears and is a long adaptation of words from the prophet Isiah of the wilderness that will bloom. It starts off with a baritone solo that gets picked up by the altos, in a very gentle mood. Halfway through I started to think it was getting a little dull, when suddenly the basses woke everyone up with a thundering part, and fireworks started all round. One boy was so caught up in one of the closing chords near the end that his gaze drifted off all the way to the ceiling and he suddenly had to come back to earth to look at the director again ^^. Some of the young ones had big smiles of joy and relief on their faces as we applauded, and I think Stephen Cleobury himself too showed in his face signs of being very pleased with this performance.

In the interval we decided to get something to drink and ended up in a huge line-up. Turned out it was for free coffee and tea, but we wanted Coke and red wine, so we scooted off to another bar nearby where there was hardly anyone waiting in line ^^

As the bell sounded for round two, we finished our drinks and got back to our seats. The first two pieces were again a cappella, and again both by one composer, this time Thomas Tallis. The first one, In iejunio et fletu, was nice but didn’t do much for me, but the second one was the most amazing piece of the evening for me: De lamentatione Jeremiae part 1, sung by only the men.
It was as if the music opened itself up for me. I had heard the piece before, in a recording by the Tallis Scholars, but hearing it sung in front of me, I could really feel what Tallis had wanted to convey in his composition. And that was deeply moving. The basses providing sombre shadows, the altos and tenors full of melancholy and sorrow. Just exquisite. This music fit the King’s men like a glove. Their controlled temperament, the blending of voices… wow.

This and the Palestrina pieces made me think how important it is to realise that this music was written for performance in a certain space by a certain group of performers. We’re so used to recorded music, but tonight I really found out that some music you can only fully experience sung in front of you in great acoustics by great performers. Recordings only give you an idea of how certain music was meant to sound, but it can never fully replace the experience it was intended for.

In hindsight it was telling that the piece that impressed me most excluded the trebles. Overall, the men shone the most and I have to say the King’s trebles kind of disappointed me. When they had to sing mild and elegant, like in the Wesley piece, they were great, but when they had to deliver more gusto and focus, they held back, to my ears and taste at least (and it was as if after the interval Stephen Cleobury had to work harder to get them to deliver the force he was looking for). Perhaps it was the tension and fatigue that went with the concert setting, who knows. Or maybe I already know so many powerhouse trebles, I’m a little hard to impress ^^
But really, the men shone the most. There were three altos that I just couldn’t tell apart, it was as if they were singing with one voice. King’s is champion in this traditional British style of singing and apart from matters of taste, it’s something to respect and admire when you have managed to uphold such a tradition. In the train ride back, my boyfriend and I discussed this and I said, if you want to know how a piece was meant to sound, find a King’s performance. There, you will find no frills or fancies, but the most solid classic interpretation of a choral piece.

Following the sublime Lamentationes was a very florid, jumpy organ piece, highly contrasting the solemnity of what we just heard. In fact, I often had to re-tune my ears during the concert since it was such a varied programme in styles and eras. By the way, I quite liked this organ piece but I’ve no idea by who it was or what it was called, since there was no concert programme, only a brochure of the entire Gergiev festival that this concert was a part of, which only had the words of the songs, not the names of the instrumental works.

Howells next, with his setting of Psalm 42, Like as the hart. A dark but subtle piece, balancing between awe and sorrow. Very longing. The trebles let me down in this one, but the final part was beautiful. In general, King’s closing chords are just amazing. Often very long, in keeping with the rather slow tempo that Cleobury adopts, and beautifully sustained. Marvelous.

Like I said it was a varied night. After the introverted longing of Howells came the full-on power dynamics of Elgar‘s Give unto the Lord, that was just riveting. Everyone sang to their best, and it sounded just like it deserved, boisterous, flaming, and wonderfully gentle in the calm parts. I didn’t realise how much I love this piece (and how well I know it, as I was practically playbacking!) until now. Wow.

A standing ovation followed, and we were even treated to an encore. Stephen Cleobury turned to the audience and said: ‘I have tried very hard to choose pieces that were in keeping with the festival’s theme of sea and water. This last piece is by William Walton, called Drop, drop, slow tears [laughter from the audience]. It was written when Walton was only fifteen years old. Not much older than some of the choristers on the platform this evenig’. A round of applause followed for those hard-working talented kids 🙂 (hey, despite my criticism, they’re still heroes to me :))
And I must say, it was a great choice for an encore. I had never heard it, but fell in love with it immediately. It got me the way a pop song can get you on a first listen. Apart from this immediate charm, it has some in-your-face dissonances and nice musical tricks, like when they sang a word forte and immediately softer, a detail that made me think: wow, what amazing breath control, and so tight! Often an encore is sung without any of the previous tension that you have during the official part of a concert, and I could really hear that ease and relief in the way they performed this piece. Too bad it was a short one and this wonderful choral experience was already over.

As it was already late we didn’t stay for the signing session but I’m sure other Dutch choral fans, young and old (we weren’t the youngest ones present!) gave them a very warm reception. It was a great night, and a great opportunity to witness a wide range of King’s qualities. In the meantime we already have plans to attend a concert of their historic ‘rivals’ from St. John’s College. For now, it’s time to savour the memories of this great King’s concert, and I hope they do too.

Choirs of Westminster Abbey and Sistine Chapel sing together

Music, like faith, has no boundaries. Both are languages of the heart. Where music and faith are shared, a little bit of heaven becomes visible on earth. It was a joy therefore to read about the Westminster Abbey Choir’s visit to Rome to sing together with the choir of the Sistine Chapel, the Pope’s official choir, during Holy Mass. The coming together of different musical and church traditions, Anglican and Roman Catholic, is a wonderful example of hope, in times of difficulty for churches and church music. From the Westminster Abbey website:

“Westminster Abbey’s Choir sang for Pope Benedict XVI, with the Cappella Musicale Pontificia ‘Sistina’, the Sistine Chapel Choir, at the Papal Mass marking the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Friday 29th June, a historic occasion of great significance for Anglican-Catholic relations.

The service was broadcast live across the world and was the first time in its 500-year history that the Sistine Chapel Choir had sung alongside another choir during a service.

The Abbey Choir was invited to Rome by Pope Benedict XVI, following his visit to the UK in September 2010, during which he attended an ecumenical service of Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey. This reciprocal visit is a further fruit of the Pope’s visit to Great Britain and is a powerful symbol of the communion already achieved between the Anglican and Catholic churches.

The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall said: ‘It is not hard to detect behind this invitation from His Holiness a papal project to restore some of the Church’s musical tradition to the liturgy. The experience of participating in these liturgies in Rome has enriched the Abbey and its Choir and the Anglican tradition of worship.’

The Papal Mass is an important annual liturgy presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, during which the Pallium (an ecclesiastical vestment symbolising Papal authority) is imposed on new Metropolitan Archbishops from around the world.

The night before, Thursday 28th June, Westminster Abbey’s Choir and the Sistine Chapel Choir combined to give a private recital in the Sistine Chapel in the Holy See.

Both choirs began by singing Palestrina’s Tu es Petrus and Magnificat.
The Abbey choir then sang O Clap Your Hands (Gibbons), Hear My Prayer (Purcell), I Love The Lord (John Harvey), Hymn to the Mother of God (Tavener), and Laudibus in Sanctis (Byrd).

The Sistine Chapel Choir sang Tu es Petrus (Mawby). This was the first piece of Anglican music the Sistine choir has ever sung and the composer, Colin Mawby, was in the audience. Both choirs then sang Palestrina’s Credo.

The concert was attended by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who said afterwards that the concert was ‘a tangible sign of our will to walk side by side.’”

Personally I was curious to find out what the Sistine Chapel choir actually sounds like, since I have heard some serious criticism of people who were surprised that a choir of such importance did not sound as good as one would expect. On their own they sang the most formal and least musically adventurous pieces, such as the plainchant Introitus and communion hymn, which they did well but not remarkably either. Truth be told, and not very surprisingly, I thought the pieces sung by the choir of Westminster Abbey alone shone the most. There were three pieces by William Byrd: Laudibus in sanctis, which was a constant flow of energy; Hodie Simon Petrus, which sounded very focused and joyful; and Ave verum corpus, which was very solemn and moving, and perhaps the most impressive piece of the entire service.

Also, the Thomas Tallis piece Loquebantur in variis linguis was beautifully radiant.

But some of the pieces sung together, such as the Gloria from Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s Missa de Papae Marcelli were wonderful as well – though who knows if the fact that James O’Donnell of Westminster Abbey was directing that particular piece could have had something to do with that 😉 Massimo Palombella of the Sistine Chapel directed the Credo of the same Mass setting where the different parts were very well balanced and which features some amazing strong basses at the closing chord. Be sure not to miss the Alleluia either which has an AMAZINGLY low bass part!

Finally, Tu es Petrus by Lorenzo Perosi, a composer closely related to the Sistine Chapel, is a piece of incredible sustained strength, reminiscent of Byzantine chant – fitting for this moment where the Pope is seen praying in front of St. Peter’s grave together with a representative of the Eastern churches.

In times where faith is questioned, it is inspiring to see churches coming together to join in worship. Music is an essential part in that process and hopefully we will see more examples of such exchange, to help build a community of faith that turns the gospel’s message of peace and justice into concrete deeds.

With thanks to Youtube channel PapalMusic

Read the official liturgy program here.

Jubilee service at St. Paul’s

Note: this post may fill up with more footage as time goes by 🙂

Ofcourse, all eyes are on London these past few days as Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 60 years on the throne. As a choir fan, I was especially looking forward to today, when the Queen celebrated a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral with lots of great music. I’ll just run through the Order of Service to give my thoughts on the performances.
Taking part were ofcourse the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral along with the Choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, directed by Andrew Carwood. They were joined by the Diamond Choir, a mixed choir of choristers aged 10 to 13 selected from cathedrals across the United Kingdom to sing The Call of Wisdom, an anthem by Will Todd, specially commissioned for the occasion. The singers were accompanied by the magnificent organ of St. Paul’s, played by Simon Johnson, as well as the Wren Brass Ensemble for the hymns Old 100th (All people that on Earth do dwell) and Cwm Rhondda (Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer).

As the Queen moved into the cathedral in procession, the choirs sang the magnificent Te Deum in G by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Grand and majestic in the opening section, full of subdued awe and wonder in the closing part. A fitting way to mark the trasition from the boisterous crowds on the streets to the more reverent and calm atmosphere inside.

The Old 100th is one of Britain’s most famous hymns and festively adorned with trumpets in the last verse.

The setting by Alan Gray of the last seven verses of Psalm 96 made for some thin, floating organ sounds and a strong contrast between the trebles and male voices. As a fan of Anglican psalm chant, I thought this piece was over way too quickly 😉

I also want to mention the sermon by Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as I thought it was such a nice message for the young people and the choristers. Dr. Williams expressed his hope that this extended Bank Holiday weekend full of celebration might encourage a rebirth of a spirit of dedication for the common good.

After the archbishop’s inspiring words, the choirs sang Charles Wood’ anthem O thou the central orb, a very dynamic piece, with wonderful treble lines and a short but firm solo part for the lower male voices. As with the Psalm, the contrast between the trebles and the basses was striking and colourful.

The hymn O praise ye the Lord by Charles Hubert Parry, which followed the litany of prayer by representatives both young and old from all over the Commonwealth, has a nice and recognizable tune but did not make much impression on me, as I thought the entire service was more formal and subdued than truly spectacular.

However, I was full of anticipation for the next piece on the programme, the commissioned anthem The Call of Wisdom by Will Todd with words by Michael Hampel, canon at St. Paul’s, based on the service’s Old Testament reading from the Book of Proverbs. Earlier today, on the steps of the cathedral, Todd had told a BBC reporter that as he had been composing, his 8-year-old daughter Petra had walked in and said she liked the tune he had written, and was still singing it hours after. That for him was a sign he was onto somthing good and so he continued with it. Indeed, The Call of Wisdom is memorable mostly for its lovely simple melody rather than its wow-factor.
It starts off really quiet, maybe even a cappella (although it started off, I thought, with a few soft notes by the organ) and builds up with every verse. The chorus has a very strong focus on the lines “I am here, I am with you”, with strong melodic shifts and some higher notes. During the third verse a countermelody is introduced, but without much frills. One or two verses later (I can’t remember exactly) there is a wonderful short jump way up high during the “I am here” part, which is about all the stuntwork Todd pulls off. All throughout, the organ plays very soft and floating, until it reaches the climax, with a full choir sound and full blowing, almost roaring, organ pipes. It ends on a soft fade, just as it started.
This one-off choir may not have given me the fireworks I had been hoping for, like the Ubi caritas by Paul Mealor at Will & Kate’s wedding last year, but I have to hand it to them that their pronunciation was excellent throughout, even in the more complex parts.

Despite the anthem’s lack of grandeur, I kind of like the unexpected choice for Todd as he is a young composer trying out new things (he is also known as a jazz composer). Incidentally, this weekend also marks the release of Todd’s new album on Signum Records, aptly called The Call of Wisdom, featuring a newly scored four-part version of its title piece, sung by the renowned professional choir Tenebrae.

The final hymn, Guide Me o Thou Great Redeemer, with trumpets and wonderful clear, high organ sounds finally brought true festivity in the cathedral, in my opinion at least. The Queen herself joined in singing as well, as did Will and Kate with broad smiles on their faces. And even with a congregation of 2,000 we could still hear the choir trebles on top of it all, thanks to the BBC 😉

My phone rang just as the national anthem started and I also didn’t catch the music after the service, sadly (neither did the BBC really properly broadcast any of the organ and brass music before the service). But altogether it was a nice and interesting celebration, which hopefully Prince Philip enjoyed from his hospital bed as well…

Download the official Order of Service here.

P.S.: And here’s what started it all – the coronation on 2 June 1953. Included in this short clip are parts of Parry’s I was glad (with the shouts of “Vivat Regina!”) and Handel’s Zadok the Priest, sung by the combined choirs of Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal and St. George’s Chapel in Windsor – numbering 182 trebles, 37 male altos, 62 tenors, and 67 basses in total. Together with a full orchestra, the total number of musicians was 480.