On New Music and the Royal Wedding…

November 9th, 2016

With just a month to go until the Royal Wedding and all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it, thoughts (well my thoughts) naturally turn to the music that will be featured at the wedding, and most pertinently whether or not there will be any newly commissioned pieces. If it was a coronation you would naturally expect new pieces, there is a good deal of time to commission and then compose something suitable, but with a wedding it might not have been so easy – a little less time, harder to judge the correct mood, a stressed bride and an over-bearing mother-in-law etc. Perhaps the omens aren’t quite as good?

One would naturally have supposed that the Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies would have been charged with the job, however comments from Max in the past week have suggested otherwise. In a Telegraph interview he states “”They are, obviously, not going to ask, because it has been left too late, so I have not done anything for it”. Perhaps just the faintest whiff of sour grapes there, but you wouldn’t blame him, would you? Perhaps Kate Middleton has put her foot down, or perhaps she heard one of the Strathclyde Concerti, who knows? In any fact, it has left the door open for someone else to take on the job.

However, that is presuming that there is a job to take on, a piece to compose – nothing wrong with the Trumpet Voluntary, the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and an arrangement of Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. However the article in The Telegraph goes on to say “Both Prince William and Miss Middleton have taken a great deal of interest and care in choosing the music for their service, which will include some specially commissioned pieces” this coming from an official spokesperson. So therefore, who is writing the ‘specially commissioned pieces’? The usual suspects would be John Tavener (Diana funeral), James MacMillan (Pope), Gabriel Jackson (Pope), John Rutter (various) etc. Maybe a more left-field suggestion – Tarik O’Regan, Richard Rodney Bennett, Judith Bingham? Maybe someone from firmly outside of the choral music fraternity? I’m not entirely sure, though whoever has been chosen is keeping it firmly to his or her chest.

There are distinct precedents for new music at Royal Weddings, both in this country and abroad. Looking into the not too distant past we have William Mathias’s anthem Let the People Praise Thee, O God at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981 and before that William McKie’s sublime We Wait for Thy Loving Kindness, O God at the wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II in 1947. Even last year the ever progressive Swedes commissioned leading composer Karin Rehnqvist (formally composer in residence with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra) to compose a new work for the wedding of their Crown Princess Victoria.

So, we wait to find out who has the illustrious job/poisoned chalice of the commission. Perhaps we will have to wait until Friday 29 April? Or maybe longer – I’m going out walking that day…


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