Overgate Hospice Choir will be joining with Hammonds Band for an uplifting programme of music “Fit for a King” to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III.
The concert will be given at All Saints’ Church, Elland on Saturday 10th June beginning at 7pm.
As befits a Coronation celebration, nearly all the choral pieces performed as part of our summer concert were either written to commemorate British royal occasions, or have been sung as part of such events subsequent to their composition. Together, they span a period of almost three hundred years: from George Frideric Handel’s set of four Coronation Anthems (written in 1727 for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline), to Judith Weir’ s anthem I Love All Beauteous Things (commissioned by St Paul’s Cathedral in London in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday in 2016).
The choir begins with Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of The National Anthem, with its remarkable hushed opening, written in 1961 for the Leeds Festival. This is followed by the most popular of Handel’s Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest, which has been performed prior to the anointing of the sovereign at the coronation of every British monarch since its composition. With its expressive opening arpeggios and explosive first choral entry, it boasts kingly splendour like few other works.
The Irish composer Charles Wood’s anthem O Thou, The Central Orb is a perennial favourite of choirs up and down the country. It was sung at the National Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, at St Paul’s Cathedral in London in 2012, and as one of the finest choral anthems of the Edwardian era has long enjoyed an association with royal celebrations. This is followed by the first of our choir, band & audience numbers: Gustav Holst’s patriotic and moving hymn I Vow To Thee, My Country, which sets a poem by Cecil Spring Rice to a melody adapted from the Jupiter movement of Holst’s The Planets suite of 1917.
Among the numerous honours bestowed on Edward Elgar during his lifetime was the position of Master of the King’s Music, a role he held from 1924 until his death a decade later. He was not required to write any official music in this capacity (unlike most of his predecessors), but several of his pieces have become synonymous with the pomp and grandeur of royal occasions. The Spirit of the Lord is a work apart, however. As the Prologue to Elgar’s biblical oratorio The Apostles (composed in 1903) it sets the tone perfectly for a work that is by turns mysterious and dazzling.
Handel’s Coronation Anthem The King Shall Rejoice rounds off the first half of our concert. It sets text from Psalm 21, and begins with glittering fanfares and declamatory choral writing. The choir performs the opening movement and the final Alleluia: an ebullient and elaborate double fugue, which was performed during the actual crowning of King George II during his coronation service in 1727.
As the current Master of the King’s Music (appointed in 2014), Judith Weir has written pieces for several state occasions, including for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022 and for the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. I Love All Beauteous Things weaves strands of melody between individual or pairs of voice parts in a beautifully lilting setting of words by the Victorian poet Robert Bridges. This is followed by music by the only other contemporary choral composer in our programme, though he is undoubtedly the country’s best known: John Rutter. His intimate setting of the biblical benediction The Lord Bless You and Keep You, with its climactic concluding Amen, is remarkably popular at weddings, funerals, and baptisms, and was performed at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018, and during the baptism of Prince George in 2013.
Ralph Vaughan Williams’s wonderfully stirring arrangement of the hymn tune All People That On Earth Do Dwell (known commonly as the Old Hundredth – a metrical setting of Psalm 100) was created specially for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Since that time, it has been a favourite musical component of numerous state and national occasions. It was also performed at Westminster Abbey as part of the composer’s own funeral in 1958.
The third piece of music by Handel in our programme is taken from certainly his most enduringly popular work, Messiah. The oratorio’s culminating movement, Worthy Is the Lamb, features a majestic final chorus, rounded off by a surprisingly meditative Amen which builds steadily to a grandiose and emotional climax. After such spiritually affirming heights, our coronation celebration could only end in one way: with a rousing rendition of Hubert Parry’s most famous work, his setting of William Blake’s Jerusalem, widely considered England’s ‘other national anthem’. It was in fact preferred by King George V, and while its use has been widespread (including being sung as a hymn at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton), its cultural impact is registered perhaps most heavily through its performance every year at the Last Night of the Proms.