This week's backing track is hard core cathedral repertoire, I'm afraid. The precentor is preparing for the big service to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the queen's coronation. The old musical warhorses are wheeled out on these occasions. In fact, I'm convinced that the following scenario plays out every time:
CHOIR: I was GLA-A-A-AD!
ROYAL VISITOR (thinks): Oh bloody hell.
I'm just teetering on the brink, after some 8 years moving in cathedral circles, of getting fed up with this Parry anthem. Here's a version of it, with the vivats, (that's real cathedral techie language, that):
The thing you need to understand about Parry is that we are allowed to like him. This is not true of Handel or Rutter. Basically, the more you instinctively warm to a piece of choral music, the less likely you are to be allowed to think it's brilliant.
And then there's the other Herbert Parry warhorse, Jerusalem, lyrics by William Blake. Now this one I am sick of, so here's a guitar version:
And next up is Handel's 'Zadok the Priest', a coronation anthem for George III. This is often sung with more welly (technical musical term for you there) than accuracy, but here's a brilliant and controlled rendition for you from the King's Consort and Choir:
And finally, possibly my least favourite hymn of all, 'I vow to thee my country'. I've completely given up on singing the first verse, as I cannot find a way of finessing the meaning in my mind into something I feel happy with. I see no evidence that the scriptures promote a love 'that asks no questions'. ('How can this be, seeing I know not a man?') It's a nice enough tune, I grant you. Did you know there's a middle verse that's been suppressed? Here it is:
- I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
- Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
- Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
- And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
- I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
- I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.
- Here's a version which seems to be sung by Americans, just so that we can appreciate the shining bounds increasing:
- And finally, here's a way out of the hideous Slane 3/4 versus 4/4 argument. But I dare say we aren't allowed to like it: