A Resounding Coda: The Queen’s Funeral Music Was Both Solemn and Sublime | Music

By | September 20, 2022

Jhe Queen’s state funeral was an affair of musical contrasts. Exterior within the streets echoed the bagpipes, the ringing bells, the massed orchestras, the solemn stampings and marches of Beethoven, Chopin and Mendelssohn, as enormous processions snaked slowly by means of London. Inside Westminster Abbey, the pomp was tempered by reflections on lengthy life and reign, mingled with British choral music from the seventeenth century to the current, sung by the Westminster Abbey Choirs and the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, led by Abbey Music Director James O’Donnell.

As one may count on, the continuity of custom weighed closely on the occasion. The content material of the Haunting Phrases, sung in the course of the introduction of the coffin into the Abbey, has remained unchanged for royal and nationwide funerals for the reason that 18th century; their composer was William Croft, then abbey organist, though out of respect for his nice predecessor, Henry Purcell, Croft additionally retained from the latter Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets and techniques of our Hearts, written for the funeral of Mary II in 1695.

Thereafter hymns, psalms, hymns and organ music are a matter of alternative. Hymns included The Lord’s My Shepherd, I am going to Not Need, a favourite of the Queen and sung at her wedding ceremony, whereas Vaughan Williams’ O Style and See was written for her coronation. One of many hymns, My Soul There Is a Nation, that includes poems by Henry Vaughan, is taken from the Farewell Songs by Hubert Parry, one of many king’s favourite composers. The organ music earlier than the service, carried out by Peter Holder and Matthew Jorysz, paid homage to former masters of Kings’ or Queen’s music, together with Elgar, Malcolm Williamson and Peter Maxwell Davies, whereas the Fantasy in C Bach’s minor, a bit offbeat from the remainder of all of it, fashioned the voluntary recession.

There was additionally, nevertheless, new music: a setting of a part of Psalm 42, Because the deer wishes the streams, by Judith Weir, the king’s present grasp of music; and James MacMillan’s hymn That Will Sever Us from the Love of Christ. Weir’s psalm is startlingly lovely, because the slowly altering chords and harmonies counsel the soul’s craving for God in contemplation of eternity. MacMillan’s composition is in some methods extra unstable, his anthem opening with higher vocals hovering above a sustained bass hum, earlier than the music escalates right into a sequence of ecstatic hallelujahs and involves a standstill. on a quiet Amen. Each items need to be heard past their fast context.

After all you could not fault the rest. Sacred music typically sounds finest when sung by choirs performing it in an ecclesiastical setting all through the liturgical yr. The Phrases have been touching (laborious to not be moved by the Purcell), the hymns splendidly targeted and mastered. An excessive amount of of the organ music firstly was both obscured by TV commentary or disappeared altogether when the cameras lower out, although Holder’s Bach enjoying on the finish is superbly imposing and darkish.