Only a person who is more or less my age can have a direct recollection of the 1953 coronation of our Queen. Happily, the recordings of that service are sufficient for subsequent generations to enjoy its visual and aural splendour. Currently there is an opportunity to experience some coronation music in an all-Handel concert by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne (24 July-4 August).
Handel wrote four brilliant anthems for the coronation of George II in October 1727; they have been used at every coronation since. With texts derived from the Old Testament, the first is Zadok the Priest, quoting from I Kings, the anointing of Solomon by Zadok and Nathan, words that have been used in every English coronation since that of Edgar in 973 in Bath Abbey. Psalm 89 is the source of Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened. Another psalm, No. 21 is the source for The King Shall Rejoice from which the closing Alleluia was played at the precise moment the sovereign was crowned. A text developed for the 1685 coronation of James II by Henry Purcell from Psalm 45 and Book of Isaiah, was used by Handel for My Heart is Inditing.
Other significant composers, including Elgar and Vaughan Williams, have written coronation music. Parry wrote I was glad for Edward VII; it was chosen by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge when she entered the Abbey in 2011 for her marriage. Right now, Handel and the Brandenburg are providing a right royal concert.
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