Coronation music: what songs are being sung and played at Westminster Abbey?

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King Charles coronation will feature music from Andrew Lloyd Webber and more in May

An anthem written by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of 12 new pieces of music commissioned by the King for his coronation.

Charles has personally selected the musical programme for the ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, 6 May. It has been designed to showcase a range of musical talent and styles from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

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On a personal note, the monarch has asked for Greek Orthodox music to be played in tribute to his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died in 2021. It will be performed by the Byzantine Chant Ensemble.

Six orchestral commissions, five choral commissions and one organ commission have been created by British composers whose styles include classical, sacred, film, television and musical theatre.

What music will be played?

The music selected for the coronation of the King will nod to his late father and feature new pieces by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Debbie Wiseman. At 11am, Charles and Camilla will enter Westminster Abbey before the choir sings Hubert Parry’s I Was Glad, composed for the coronation of King Edward VII.

The choir, joined by opera and concert singer Sir Bryn Terfel, will perform the Kyrie – which will be sung in Welsh for the first time. After Charles takes the oath, he will sign copies presented by the Lord Chamberlain, as the choir sings an anthem by 17th century composer William Byrd.

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Gloria, also by Bryd, will “frame” the monarch’s prayer as he kneels before the high altar. Later, the choir will sing the Alleluia, newly commissioned by Wiseman, while St Augustine’s Gospel Book, dating back to the sixth century, is carried to the nave.

A second Alleluia, also by Wiseman, will be performed by the Ascension choir – a gospel choir handpicked for the occasion. The choir will also sing the Veni Creator Spiritus hymn in English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish.

The Anointing, described as “the most solemn and sacred part of the service”, will be accompanied by Handel’s dramatic Zadok The Priest, which was composed for the coronation of King George II in 1727. The piece has been sung prior to the anointing of the sovereign of every British monarch since its composition.

The Byzantine Chant Ensemble will also sing in Greek in tribute to Charles’ late father, the Duke of Edinburgh. Charles has also personally requested that the Wiener Philharmoniker Fanfare is played by the Coronation Brass Ensemble during the crowning portion of the ceremony.

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The choir will sing an anthem by 16th century composer Thomas Weelkes, followed by the enthroning. The homage portion of the service will conclude with a fanfare, and the choir will sing an anthem arranged by John Rutter for the Coronation of King George VI.

Following the the coronation of Camilla, a new anthem, Make A Joyful Noise, composed by Lord Lloyd-Webber, will be sung by the choir. The impresario – known for hit musicals including The Phantom Of The Opera, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar – has drawn on the words of Psalm 98 for his piece.

He is expected to be inside the abbey to witness the debut.

Before the end of the service, there will be a performance of Sanctus, composed for the service by Roxanna Panufnik. Following the conclusion of the service, the choir will sing an anthem by William Boyce, composed for the coronation of King George III in 1761, and the Te Deum, written for the coronation of the late Queen.

When the newly crowned King and Queen Consort make their exit from Westminster Abbey at 1pm, they will embark on their coronation procession back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach.

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Pieces performed during the procession will include Coronation Bells, The King’s Company and The King’s Guard. The procession music will end with a rendition of the National Anthem in Buckingham Palace Gardens before three cheers are given to the King.

What has Andrew Lloyd Webber said?

Lord Lloyd-Webber, who is known for hit musicals including The Phantom Of The Opera, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, described himself as “incredibly honoured” to have been asked to compose a new anthem. He said: “My anthem includes words slightly adapted from Psalm 98.

“I have scored it for the Westminster Abbey choir and organ, the ceremonial brass and orchestra. I hope my anthem reflects this joyful occasion.”

What other music will feature?

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort take part in an address in Westminster Hall. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort take part in an address in Westminster Hall. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort take part in an address in Westminster Hall. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A Coronation March has been created by Patrick Doyle, while a piece by Iain Farrington for the solo organ takes in musical themes from countries across the Commonwealth. There will also be new works by Sarah Class, Nigel Hess, Paul Mealor, Tarik O’Regan, Roxanna Panufnik, Shirley J Thompson, Judith Weir, Roderick Williams, and Debbie Wiseman.

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A handpicked gospel choir – The Ascension Choir – will perform as part of the service, as will the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Choir of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace – together with girl choristers from the Chapel Choir of Methodist College, Belfast, and from Truro Cathedral Choir.

The King’s Scholars of Westminster School will proclaim the traditional “Vivat” acclamations. Bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel along with soprano Pretty Yende and baritone Roderick Williams will be among the soloists.

Andrew Nethsingha, organist and master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey, is taking charge of the musical arrangements and directing the music during the service.

Coronations have taken place in Westminster Abbey since 1066 and all services are “a mixture of deep-rooted tradition and contemporary innovation”, he said. “It has been a privilege to collaborate with His Majesty in choosing fine musicians and accessible, communicative music for this great occasion,” he added.

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Sir Antonio Pappano, music director for the Royal Opera House, will be conducting the Coronation Orchestra, which will be made up of musicians drawn from orchestras of the former Prince of Wales’ patronages including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

He said: “His Majesty has chosen a most beautiful and varied programme that I believe will enhance the splendour of this very special celebration.” Music which has been played at coronation services over the past four centuries will also be part of the programme, along with the work of Sir Karl Jenkins – who is one of the most-performed living composers in the world.

The historical sounds will include music by the likes of William Byrd, George Frideric Handel, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Henry Walford Davies, Sir William Walton, Sir Hubert Parry and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Fanfares will be played by The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry and The Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner will conduct The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque soloists in a pre-service programme of choral music. A small group of singers from The Monteverdi Choir will also join the main choral forces for the service.

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