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Looking to the future


Martin Cooke
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I wonder if we can look forward to a new Coronation March. Who is a modern day William Walton? 

And I wonder, too, if the time has come for a replacement for the ubiquitous Gordon Jacob fanfare. David Willcocks had a go but I think it's fair to say that it hasn't really caught on. 

Altogether, there is much scope for new music both to commemorate the life and passing away of Her Late Majesty, and also to mark the accession and eventual coronation of King Charles. It will be all be very interesting. 

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Others may cavil at that last word, given current sensitivities. There are, of course, few, if any, better royal marches than Walton’s.

As for a present-day equivalent, Sir James MacMillan might be one. So sadly, William Mathias died early, thirty years ago. He was one of the best 20th century composers for the royal family and did this sort of music perfectly.

 John Rutter is fairly obvious; with Cecilia McDowall and the much younger Paul Mealor other contenders.

 We mustn’t forget, too, there is a Master of the King’s Music.

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5 hours ago, John Furse said:

Others may cavil at that last word, given current sensitivities. There are, of course, few, if any, better royal marches than Walton’s.

I have no problem with ‘Imperial’, but I was born in the tail-end of that era.  We celebrated ‘Empire Day’ when I was primary school age - not sure when that died out - is there an equivalent ‘Commonwealth Day’?  

Walton’s ‘Orb and Sceptre’ would be an alternative.  It’s on the cards, I suspect, that either or both are already included in any plans, although it will be interesting to see, as Martin suggests, any new additions to this particular repertoire.

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3 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

......................... is there an equivalent ‘Commonwealth Day’?  

 

Since 1977, the second Monday in March. Marked by a Service in Westminster Abbey attended by the monarch.

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5 hours ago, Andrew Butler said:

Grayston (Bill) Ives wrote a rather good piece for the 1977 Jubilee.....

The piece Andrew refers to is 'Intrada' - written for the service of thanksgiving in St. Paul's in 1977 for the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Published by Banks.

There are several recordings on YouTube. Non, particularly, in my opinion, does the piece justice!

 

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Rather than " looking to the future " perhaps ,IMHO only, " perpetuating the status quo " would, perhaps, be the most likely outcome.

Plans will already be on desks for the future event and no doubt will be of a sufficient dynamic  nature as to fully represent all that is good about that condition known as  " the nation state ".

Having said that the body has not yet been committed so any plans " for the future " would appear to be  premature .   Somewhat analogous to people unable to wait for Xmas, for example.

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On 16/09/2022 at 19:31, Martin Cooke said:

I wonder if we can look forward to a new Coronation March. Who is a modern day William Walton? 

And I wonder, too, if the time has come for a replacement for the ubiquitous Gordon Jacob fanfare. David Willcocks had a go but I think it's fair to say that it hasn't really caught on. 

Altogether, there is much scope for new music both to commemorate the life and passing away of Her Late Majesty, and also to mark the accession and eventual coronation of King Charles. It will be all be very interesting. 

Just thinking about this a bit more, I would like to think we will have a new coronation march. That's not to 'do down' the two Walton pieces, both of which fit the bill admirably, but I just feel they established a tradition and it would be good to keep that going. There is an innumerable number of musicians in this country, many from the military, who could fulfil the brief with distinction - perhaps there could be a competition. 

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7 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

perhaps there could be a competition. 

That is an excellent idea. There should be enough time: early in the New Year has been mentioned as to when this might take place.

I note, as I wake, that today's Order of Service has two specially composed works: a Psalm setting by Judith Weir and Anthem by Sir James MacMillan.

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2 hours ago, John Furse said:

I note, as I wake, that today's Order of Service has two specially composed works: a Psalm setting by Judith Weir and Anthem by Sir James MacMillan.

It all looks very interesting, John. Some very 'different' and thought-provoking organ music before the services at both the Abbey and at St George's. I have just downloaded the Peter Maxwell Davies organ piece and look forward to trying it later. 

Remarkable, too, to see that the early organ music - (not the pieces listed in the OoS) - at St George's is to be played by Miriam Reveley who, at age 19 has just obtained her FRCO and is organ scholar this year at St George's. 

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Her Late Majesty's funeral and committal services have come at the end of a ten day period in which our church music has been absolutely of the highest order. We've spoken of St Paul's, but who could not have been struck by all the singing and organ playing we have heard. What a privilege it has been to be transported to so many cathedrals who have honoured Her Majesty's memory with great beauty, none more gloriously than in the case of Westminster Abbey and St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, yesterday. From the very first chord of Croft's Burial Sentences to the exquisite final cadence of Sir William Harris's sublime Bring us, O Lord, God surely we heard some of the best choral singing of the church tradition ever televised. We didn't get a chance to hear very much of the pre-service organ music - a little Howells, Stanford and Elgar at the Abbey, though we did hear the St George's organ scholar (as above) playing O Mensch bewein and, I think, some tiny bits of Luke Bond's Howells. But both organs sounded magnificent during the services themselves, the great and beautifully appropriate hymns soaring to the rafters, especially in James O'Donnell's majestic arrangements, and the great Bach (and later Elgar) voluntaries perfectly matching the mood.

Goodness me, how important Music is on occasions such as these, and here's a chance to bring in all those military bands of different species - including pipers and fanfare groups - who brought so much to the pageantry, colour and solemnity of it all. Whatever part they played, every musician aimed to achieve perfection and they did so resoundingly. Let's hope that yesterday's simply stunning display of musicianship from singers, organists, composers, conductors and leaders, and instrumentalists of every type, gives fresh impetus to the latest new initiatives to give Music its rightful place in the school curriculum and timetable. 

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Well said, Martin.  I struggled yesterday to find adequate words to describe the musical and spiritual magnificence of both services.  Racking my brains, I can’t recall a service of such splendour from Westminster Abbey.  Although I watched the late Queen’s Coronation, it’s not possible to include that in any comparison for a variety of reasons.  The Archbishop of Canterbury’s gentle admonition to world leaders of their own transient importance was reflected in the final verse of “The day Thou gavest”, chosen by her late Majesty herself: “So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away; thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever, till all thy creatures own thy sway.”   Food for thought indeed to those exalted leaders and a remarkable reflection on our late Queen’s choosing it.   But you are right that the commemorations, and the music, catered for and have reached out to everyone.

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I thought the music was, as always at the Abbey, wonderful. The opening sentences were beautifully sung, as was the Parry and the VW. The hymns were at exactly the right pace and the Judith Weir and James McMillan anthems, particularly the Weir, were beautiful. I also thought that the Archbishop's sermon was 'spot on'!

 

But it seems that quite a few disagreed. The Daily Mail had quite a few comments to make:

'I hate morose organ music,' said one. 'And it sounds like it's being played by Les Dawson.' 

Another said: 'Have they resurrected Les Dawson to play the organ? So many bum notes.' 

One person jokingly suggested that organisers should have got popstar and keyboard icon Elton John in to play music for the service.

'Is it just me or is the organ playing a bit off? Surely they could have got Elton in?' they said. 

Another Twitter user, who said they 'don't care for this organ music', asked if it was 'really what her Majesty wanted'.

'Did someone forget to tune the organ'

Eric Morecambe on the organ. Playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order'

 

I'm afraid that words fail me. In fact, it makes me rather depressed to be honest, that such professionalism from the Abbey music department, should be subject to such comments.

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I doubt that anyone will reply to the Daily Mail, or that they would publish it, or understand a considered response.

Astonishing, and desperately sad, but I’m afraid ignorance reigns about church music.  Vox Humana went a lot further when this subject was discussed previously, lamenting the lack of musical knowledge and low esteem in which ‘classical’ music generally (and one might add organ music especially) is held in this country.  There are, of course, honourable exceptions and I follow the fortunes of aspiring young musicians under the wings of the Royal College of Music, but fear that their future and livelihood are largely dependent on a limited audience.  Of course there are the Proms, as to which opinions vary.  They have extended their range to include popular and light music, as to which opinion is divided whether that is good thing.

What the Daily Mail commenters do not know, or do not understand, is that the entire service (apart from the new commissions presumably) was planned and chosen by the late Queen personally.  I’m sure Elton John would have been available if he had been wanted, but that was not the character of this service or, I suspect, the taste of her late Majesty.  Odd, at least to me, that anyone should think that appropriate in a funeral or memorial service for the death of the Sovereign.

S_L, I’m afraid we are a minority and looked on as obsolete dinosaurs!  Years ago a lay reader looked over my shoulder while I was playing and asked “Did he really write that chord?”  The answer was yes, and ‘he’ was Brahms!

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On 20/09/2022 at 15:09, Rowland Wateridge said:

S_L, I’m afraid we are a minority and looked on as obsolete dinosaurs! 

I was once described as 'an elitist dinosaur'.

At the time I had commissioned, and just conducted, from one of the country's leading composers, (Michael Finnissy) a community opera, to be performed by school students aged from Year 6 to VIth form and professional musicians. There were vocal parts for a unison chorus of 'little demons' (150 Year 6's - complete with whistles!!!), vocal parts for older secondary school students (male and female_, parts for adults (an SATB choir and two principal solo parts) as well as an orchestra made up of professional players and amateurs. Those who know Finnissy's music will know that it isn't always easy - some of it was b***** difficult. The commission came on the back of three performances, a year earlier, of Noyes Fludde. Finnissy was totally amazing, he grasped exactly what I was looking for, came to rehearsals, worked with the students, and delivered just what I wanted. 

"Why don't you do Oliver?" was a comment from the character who described me as an elitist dinosaur. My reply - "not a cat in hells chance when school students and adult and professional amateurs can be given the opportunity to work with such a distinguished musician and perform something that is totally new! The words elitist and dinosaur were so misplaced!!!

Rowland. it is depressing - which is why I sit in my huge house, in the middle of French nowhere, having nothing to do with it anymore!

My apologies to all - for high jacking the thread!!!

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I was rather taken with the music used by BBC TV to introduce its coverage and for the montages over the last ten days, which appears to be a specially written piece called ‘Elizabeth Remembered’ by composer Debbie Wiseman, a name new to me but upon researching, I’m somewhat embarrassed not to have come across her name before as a relatively prominent contemporary composer; I realise I have heard several of her film and TV scores. I venture to suggest that ‘Elizabeth Renembered’ would transfer very well to the organ. 
 

Wiseman seems to have a particular sense for a strong melody, an important element for the central theme in a Coronation March, and given Walton’s skills in writing music for films, and her track record in writing music for royal occasions, Debbie Wiseman OBE could be a suitable candidate. She was involved in the New Water Music Project in 2012, wrote a piece for the 2022 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, was the musical director for the 2022 Royal Windsor Horse Show and featured this piece as part of an album on the Kings and Queens through history to celebrate the late Queen’s 95th birthday.   

https://youtu.be/3cV6GtunqvQ

I have no doubt though that there will be plenty of new music written and commissioned by many of today’s most prominent composers for the coronation, but time will of course be the judge of which pieces endure. 
(Perhaps, though not strictly organ related, there’s also a market (albeit limited) for some more funeral marches- I don’t know how many times I heard the Walch Trauermarsch yesterday but it did seem to be on repeat loop at times - some newer alternatives which could be used on Remembrance Sunday might add variety (as long as they are at 75bpm!))

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Martin Cooke said: "I wonder, too, if the time has come for a replacement for the ubiquitous Gordon Jacob fanfare".
I have often used Bliss' fanfare "Dignified Occasion" - a short piece for military brass - but transposed so that it ends in D major,  linking seamlessly into D, E , F#,"God save the Queen/King".

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5 hours ago, S_L said:

But it seems that quite a few disagreed. The Daily Mail had quite a few comments to make.

We must all hope that, Peter Holder, whom, I am pretty certain, won't have put a foot or finger wrong throughout the entire ceremony, prefers to read The Guardian: "Too much of the organ music at the start was obscured by TV commentary or vanished altogether as cameras cut away, though Holder's playing of the Bach at the close was magnificently imposing and sombre."

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8 hours ago, S_L said:

I thought the music was, as always at the Abbey, wonderful. The opening sentences were beautifully sung, as was the Parry and the VW. The hymns were at exactly the right pace and the Judith Weir and James McMillan anthems, particularly the Weir, were beautiful. I also thought that the Archbishop's sermon was 'spot on'!

 

But it seems that quite a few disagreed. The Daily Mail had quite a few comments to make:

'I hate morose organ music,' said one. 'And it sounds like it's being played by Les Dawson.' 

Another said: 'Have they resurrected Les Dawson to play the organ? So many bum notes.' 

One person jokingly suggested that organisers should have got popstar and keyboard icon Elton John in to play music for the service.

'Is it just me or is the organ playing a bit off? Surely they could have got Elton in?' they said. 

Another Twitter user, who said they 'don't care for this organ music', asked if it was 'really what her Majesty wanted'.

'Did someone forget to tune the organ'

Eric Morecambe on the organ. Playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order'

 

I'm afraid that words fail me. In fact, it makes me rather depressed to be honest, that such professionalism from the Abbey music department, should be subject to such comments.

I'm just relieved that, bearing in mind how things seem to be going in this country now, there weren't any parts of the service devoted to those 'praise bands' with guitars and drums!

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11 hours ago, Nic DAVIDSON PORTER said:

Touching briefly on funeral marches,  does Purcell's EVER get an airing?  It damn well ought to! 

 

It will this Sunday; the first service at my church since the death of Her Late Majesty. (It's quite a lot easier to play than most of the others which are well outside my capabilities these days.)

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I do not believe anyone with any kind of musical intelligence would pay heed to the lamentable Daily Male. It's not as if they employ an esteemed classical music critic.

In any case (and I cannot bring myself to look), surely, these comments must be from some of their more mis-informed readers - of which there must be a multitude. ('Organ out-of-tune' ? I ask you.)

There can be few occasions when standards of excellence (by the Abbey musicians) in all respects have been exceeded so greatly. 10+ for every aspect. It was also good to see that the Chapel Royal boys were 'level with' those from the Abbey this time - not tagged on the end. Previous slight criticism must have been noted.

Those who support (in every which way) Anglican Church music should rejoice at the World's being able to watch and listen to how it should be done.

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3 hours ago, John Furse said:

I do not believe anyone with any kind of musical intelligence would pay heed to the lamentable Daily Male. 

I'm not suggesting, for one moment, that anyone, with any musical intelligence, would pay heed to the Daily Mail article. Anyone with any musical intelligence has only to listen to the broadcast to realise the excellence of the music offering at her late Majesty's funeral. Anyone with any intelligence would, surely, realise that you don't end up playing the organ for a broadcast, viewed by 26m people, and broadcast around the world, without being, slightly, good, or even rather excellent, at your job!!!

But, and here I suspect I might cause some offence, people who read the Daily Mail aren't, by and large, musically intelligent. I might, even, be tempted to say intelligent! And the rag in question publishes, largely, what they want to hear. It is racist, xenophobic and serves up the kind of c**p that sees those with some education (doctors, teachers, clergy etc.) ridiculed, over-criticised and seen as needing to be brought down to size! (But some of us have had experiences of, and I speak from some personal experience, of organists needing to be brought down to size - think of the guardian of the local Parish church instrument jealously fending off any enthusiasm by talented youngsters - and we know it still happens) The rag also perpetuates the myth that we are being flooded with illegal immigrants which is why it supported and encouraged its readers to support Brexit! I could go on!

More worrying though is that it confirms what a lot of people think of us. Boring, amateur, incompetent, harking back to an era that is gone and so on. I spent some of my life as an orchestral musician. The viola players and the bassoonists often had fun poked at them. But the minute an organist appeared, either playing the organ or, worse still, conducting, then the real comments started.

I'm afraid Joe Public has a very low opinion of us. For some things we bring it on ourselves. The Daily Mail article was a disgrace but not, I would suggest, unexpected.

 

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4 hours ago, S_L said:

The Daily Mail article was a disgrace but not, I would suggest, unexpected.

Gracious, was this actually an article?  I assumed they were the kind of crank ‘letters to the Editor’ which one can also find in other newspapers.  But John Furse is right: it demonstrates the most lamentable ignorance, not just musical, but factual as well.  I wonder whether non-churchgoers would, for example, baulk at the harmonies in Howells’ tune ‘Michael’ and think they are mistakes by the organist or singers.  

I wonder whether anyone will reply to the ‘Mail’ and whether they will publish it.

Looking again at the words of the hymns, chosen by her late Majesty, one is struck how appropriate they all are both to the occasion; and as a testament of her own Christian faith. 

7 hours ago, John Furse said:

There can be few occasions when standards of excellence (by the Abbey musicians) in all respects have been exceeded so greatly. 10+ for every aspect.

I could not agree more strongly.

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