T.The Queen’s state funeral was a musical contrast. Outside the streets, there were bagpipe melodies, toll-collecting bells, large bands, stamped feet, solemn processions by Beethoven, Chopin and Mendelssohn, and huge processions slowly moved through London. Inside Westminster Abbey, it is interwoven with English choral music from the 17th century to the present day, sung by the choir of Westminster Abbey and Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, and by the Abbey’s musical director, James O’Donnell.
Continuity of tradition, predictably, weighed on the event. The content of the haunting text sung when the coffin was brought into the monastery has remained unchanged at royal and state funerals since the 18th century. Their composer was William Croft, then the organist of the Abbey, but they were written for the funeral of Mary II in 1695, in honor of his great predecessor, Henry Purcell. , also left behind Henry Purcell’s “You Know, Lord, the Secret of Our Hearts.”
Anthems, psalms, hymns and organ music are then a matter of choice. Hymns included “Lord my Shepherd, I Don’t Want”, a favorite of the Queen and sung at her wedding, and Vaughan Williams’ “O Taste and See” for her coronation. Written His one of the national anthems, My Soul There Is a Country, was set by Henry Vaughan for the verse and is taken from the King’s favorite composer, his Hubert Parry’s Songs of Farewell. The pre-service organ music performed by Peter Holder and Matthew Joris pays homage to former masters of Kings or Queens Music, including Elgar, Malcolm Williamson and Peter Maxwell Davies, and features Bach’s Fantasia in C Minor. was a little tangential. From all the rest formed a spontaneous depression.
However, there was also new music. Part of the setting for Psalm 42, like Hart Desireth the Water-brooks, is by Judith Weir, now Master of Music for Kings. and the anthem that pulls us away from the love of Christ by James MacMillan. doing. MacMillan’s composition is in some ways more volatile, with his anthem hovering over a sustained bass drone before the music escalates towards an ecstatic Allelujah sequence and stops with a quiet amen. It starts with a high pitched voice. Both works deserve hearing beyond their immediate context.
Of course, you can’t fault how it’s done. Sacred music often sounds best sung by choirs performing in a church setting throughout the liturgical year. The sentences were moving (you can’t help but be moved by Purcell), and the anthems were beautifully focused and controlled. Much of the organ music at the beginning was obscured by TV commentary or completely absent due to camera cuts, but the Bach rendition at the end was spectacularly memorable and somber.