How shall I sing that, Majesty?

How shall I sing that, Majesty?

Every now and again I share something that might not be entirely considered comedy, but speaks to the love of choral music that - if you're on this site - I can safely assume we share.


(Edited after the Coronation to change to past tense.)


On Saturday 6 May 2023, The King was crowned. 

As part of the day's events, there were no sporting competitions. We did not celebrate with athletic prowess, though there is much of that in this country to celebrate.

The King did not commission new literary works in honour of the occasion, even with the wealth of talent in the writing community.

There were no - as yet - films to mark the occasion, cinematic genius writ royal, despite BAFTA's recognition of our film industry's remarkable output. 

What the country and the world found at the heart of the Coronation liturgy was music.

Twelve new pieces of music were dreamed into existence, and were presented to the world. Yes, there may have been easy targets for derision among musicians (I'm looking at you, Andrew) but when the world tuned in out of mild curiosity at what the small island floating away from Europe was doing that weekend, with circumstantial pomp, it saw a country that focuses on, and celebrates music.

Nearly half of the new commissions were sacred choral music. A Welsh Kyrie by Paul Mealor, a Gospel Acclamation (featuring a gospel choir - I see what they did there) by Debbie Wiseman, an anthem for Queen Camilla by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a Sanctus by Roxanna Panufnik, and an Agnus Dei by Tarik O'Regan.

The work done by the composers in creating these works echoed round the Abbey with the time and energy and expertise of singers and musicians performing them. This speaks not only to the many hours of preparation for this specific service, but also to the countless time spent bringing each and every musician to the default high standard that such an occasion as a Coronation can be met, yes, with awe at the majesty of the event, but with absolute professionalism. Professionalism from the oldest lay clerk (who is going to retire a very happy person) to the youngest, freshest, most cherubic chorister, who have now lived the story with which they will bore their grandchildren.

And, at the very start of the service, after the choir sang Parry's I was glad, but before anyone else spoke - not the Dean of Westminster, not the Archbishop of Canterbury, not The King himself - one still small voice rang through the Abbey: a chorister's. 

For one moment, the entire world focused on a representative of our world - this sacred choral music world we inhabit and love so much. And then for the rest of the service the choir did what they do every day: peerless singing of world-class music. They did this at what will be the most important event of their lives until the next one. 

That next most important event will be the next regular everyday, garden variety, weekday Evensong.

Because, and this is the kicker, they are all important.

The music you are singing is, at that point you are singing it, the single most important thing you are doing. 

For a short time at the coronation, a light shone on choral music. The world heard this music that we know and love and, because it was part of the day's peculiarities, they might not have thought twice about the music they heard.

Or maybe - just maybe - a child somewhere will have heard the music, and be hit with that same gut punch we were, when they realise that the thing they need to be is right there in front of them: on the screen, wearing a cassock and an itchy ruff. 

Here's to the choristers, lay clerks, organists, conductors, composers - and all the rest who showed the world that when, in our music, God is glorified, we glimpse a moment of heaven.

Vivat Rex Carolus! 

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Thank you for your considered insights into the centrality of music, old and new, in the service. I watched with dear friends in the Antipodes, rejoicing in the glimpse of the moment of Heaven.

Christine Beal

The full order of service for the Ed coronation was published online late last night. It can be downloaded in ‘pdf’ form.

Tim Walton

Does anyone know if there is to be a “souvenir” order of service for the coronation including scores of all the choral music, as there was for the 1953 coronation? I imagine that, with copyright issues to be settled, it would take some time to appear, but as yet I have been unable to find any reference to such a project.

John Nixon

So absolutely wonderful! It is my plan to view The Coronation tomorrow and I am delighted to hear that newly commissioned works will be part of the Coronation Ceremonies. I so cherish my British heritage having Grandparents who were born and raised in England as well as my Father. The British choral tradition is held in such high esteem and I rise with a great sense of pride to be bathed in the glorious music tomorrow. My British roots have shaped me because I studied choral conducting here in America at The Westminster Choir College in Princeton which us steeped in the excellence of The British Cjiral Tradition. The influence of The British Brass Band tradition has also been part of my life having been influenced and a participant while playing in Salvation Army brass bands. I played with an outstanding Salvation Army Band from Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University. It was my privilege to tour with them and end that tour performing at Royal Albert Hall in London. Thank you for the choices made with honoring choral music. It will indeed be a glorious day as I watch from America.

Nancy Sampson

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