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Coronation Music

Sunday 2 June 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in London. It also therefore follows that it is the anniversary of the works which were first performed at the coronation, including William Walton’s Orb and Sceptre March and Coronation Te Deum, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s O taste and see and Old Hundredth Psalm Tune (All people that on earth do dwell).

William Walton. Image courtesy of Oxford University Press Printed Music department.

The coronation featured works by a host of British composers — Butterworth, Byrd, Elgar, Gibbons, Holst, Parry, Purcell, and Tallis — which included a who’s who of early twentieth-century British composers — Bax, Bliss, Dyson, Howells, Ireland, Jacob, and Stanford. Not forgetting honorary Brit George Frideric Handel whose Zadok the Priest has been played at every British coronation since its première at the coronation of George II in 1727.

People wrongly assume that the Walton Crown Imperial was written for the 1953 coronation. In fact it was commissioned by the BBC for the coronation of King Edward VIII (which never happened because of the abdication) but wasn’t actually used until the coronation of King George VI in 1937. The work was played during the entry of the dowager Queen Mary and Queen Maud of Norway into Westminster Abbey. The original version was reduced by 2 minutes by Walton a couple of years later for a concert version which has become popular all round the world.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of our Queen’s coronation Bob Chilcott was commissioned to write The King shall rejoice, which will first be performed at Westminster Abbey on 4 June 2013.

Listen to the playlist below for the 1953 coronation published by Oxford University Press. Which is your favourite?

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