2003 was the Queen's Jubilee year, but it was also the year of the sovereign's acceptance of the title of Patroness of Queens College, Cambridge. It was with these two important regal events in mind that this disc was recorded, also in 2003. It is a true celebration not only of Britain's great musical heritage but also of its Kings and Queens.
The disc opens with Parry's 'I was Glad' composed for the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902. After its somewhat chaotic première, Parry revised this famous hymn for the Coronation of George V in 1911, and it is this version that has been part of every Coronation since then. Its joyous and expansive nature together with its Englishness has given this short work a world popularity that is almost unrivalled.
The best part of this disc (10 tracks) is allocated to a 1953 composition called 'A Garland for the Queen'. It was premièred as intended, at the Royal Festival Hall on 1st June 1953, the eve of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the II. The performers were the Golden Age Singers and the Cambridge University Madrigal Society under the baton of Boris Ord. This very interesting, and at times, uplifting work is the result of a fruitful collaboration of 10 British composers who each contributed one piece.
Notwithstanding their diversity and the two distinct generations they belong to, all of the compositions possess an extremely strong national identity when the Arts Council of Great Britain commissioned this collection of songs for mixed voices. Bliss, Bax, Tippett, Vaughan Williams, Lennox Berkeley, Ireland, Howells, Finzi, Rawsthorne and Rubbra all stepped forward to play their part in this festive initiative. The end result is a true 'garland' of wonderful choral writing full of happy, luminous and at times lofty tunes befitting the royal occasion it was written for.
The remainder of the disc includes two pieces by the young British composer Tarik O'Regan (b.1978) and one each by Gowers (b.1936) and Walton. The Walton anthem, 'The Twelve' is particularly memorable. Full of rousing tunes, it is a substantial work for large forces, and is an ideal ending to this project of love aimed at promoting the British choral tradition in the best light.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech