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Their Majesties' Music

PIPPA HARE listens to the Choir of the 21st Century


Their Majesties' Music -- Choral Music by Masters of the King's and the Queen's Music since 1900 -- is a most compelling title for a concert and a glance at the programme for the Choir of the 21st Century, conducted by Howard Williams, on Saturday 16 April 2005 at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London UK, confirmed that a very unusual and lively evening was in prospect. It was both fortuitous and fitting that this concert, although planned much earlier in the year, should take place just one week after the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles.

Charles I was the first British monarch to introduce the title of Master of the King's Music, and Nicholas Lanier was the first person to hold this office. Odes were composed for the monarch's birthday and for the New Year. This form continued until Edward VII's time (the early 20th century), when the musicians' duties were drastically reduced. After this time they played only at occasional court functions. In George V's reign the position of Master of the King's Music became an honorary one, however it was thanks to Elgar that the title was not dropped altogether: he persuaded King George that it was important to keep a connection between Art and the Court.

Peter Maxwell Davies. Photo © John Batten
Peter Maxwell Davies. Photo © John Batten

This interesting and carefully chosen programme consisted of secular and sacred choral music composed by Masters of the King's and Queen's music in the years between Sir Edward Elgar (who held the title from 1924-34) and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (born in the year Elgar died, 1934, and currently experiencing his first year in the role). He is also Patron of the choir.

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Copyright © 5 May 2005 Pippa Hare, Kent UK


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