England My England
—-performed by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge—-opens and closes with coronation music: "Zadok the Priest" was written for the crowning of George II in 1727, "I Was Glad for That" of Edward VII in 1902. Both were so successful that they have been sung at every coronation since their premières. Parry’s "processional anthem" is heard here in its full panoply of extra brass and shouted vivats, the choir of King’s college providing the semi-chorus in the exquisite interlude "O pray for the peace of Jerusalem".
In between are motets ancient and modern--from the miniature "If ye Love Me" and the architectural splendour of the 40-part Spem in alium to William Harris’ dramatic double-choir spenser setting "Faire is the Heaven"; well-known psalms sung to Anglican chant; and favourite hymns, notably "All People that on Earth do Dwell", arranged ceremonially for another coronation, that of Elizabeth II.
As well as national rejoicing there is solemn remembrance. "Come ye Sons of art Away" is Purcell’s 1694 birthday ode for Queen Mary, "Thou knowest", Lord" part of the music he wrote for her funeral just nine months later. John Ireland’s "Greater Love Hath no Man" is often heard on Remembrance Sunday; Sir John Tavener’s "Song for Athene" made a powerful impression at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales; while JJohn Rutter’s small-scale, personal requiem touched a wider public following the attacks of 11 September 2001. But "Nimrod" above all epitomises music of national remembrance. Here a choral setting of it, "Lux Aeterna", represents our "Shakespeare of music", Edward Elgar.