After all the hype about the Royal Wedding last Friday, we needed to be reminded that while individual members of the British royal family may be silly and/or superfluous the institution has served us well. It remains a positive model of how people and nations can organize themselves into lasting and workable social structures.
The wedding itself was a magnificent affair by any standard and the music greatly enhanced the nobility and wonder of the occasion. For some tastes the music was far too traditional and looked backwards rather than forwards. But this was not a contemporary music concert. It was a celebration of a great British institution and its stability and grandeur. There was some music by living composers - Peter Maxwell Davies, John Rutter and Paul Nealor - but there were also the chestnuts that turn up regularly on the Last Night at the Proms: Parry's Jerusalem and Blest Pair of Sirens.
But watching the ceremony and getting caught up in the spirit of the moment, from my perspective it all worked beautifully. Walton's Crown Imperial was ideal for the newly-married couple's walk down the aisle and out the front door of Westminster Abbey to be cheered by the hundreds of thousands of people waiting patiently to greet them. And Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens - a setting of a poem by John Milton - was perfect for the guests to enjoy while the wedding party signed the registry out of sight. Blest Pair of Sirens was performed gained immensely from the inclusion of a superb boys choir instead of the more customary women's voices. The measured tempo was just right too. For comparison one can visit YouTube and see a performance given at the 1998 Proms and led by Andrew Davis. Davis takes the correct tempo at the beginning but to me it seems too fast for the spirit of both words and music.
Here is a video of the wonderful performance given last week at the Royal Wedding.
- Paul E. Robinson