…our latest website Newsletter, with paragraphs about composers, performances and anniversaries, as well as occasional mentions of items in our catalogue that we feel merit a timely word or so.

William Boyce – Coronation Anthems

New issues are often given more publicity by the “peg” of an anniversary to hang them on. Besides the big names, 2010 was noticeable for an welcome increase in the amount of S S Wesley being performed.   This year it is the turn of William Boyce, born in 1711.

We are concentrating our efforts particularly on his Coronation Anthems, now all available in print (both vocal scores and orchestral material) for the first time. Not only is it the tercentenary this year of Boyce’s birth, it is also the 250th anniversary of George III’s Coronation, for which these Anthems were written. Boyce was actually invited to compose all the music for this Service, an honour accorded to no one before or since, but, where Zadok the Priest was concerned, he rightly observed that Handel’s setting, written for the previous Coronation, could not be improved upon, thus starting the tradition that has seen the Handel performed at every subsequent Coronation.  Inevitably in his anthems Boyce cannot step entirely out of Handel’s shadow, but enough of his own sturdy Englishness shines through to make these a worthy set of alternatives to Handel’s now almost over-programmed settings. 

Boyce wrote eight anthems in all (as well as using his Te Deum in A), of which four are orchestrally accompanied and - naturally enough at a celebration such as this – in a festive D major with trumpets and drums. Even so, the individual movements or sections manage to encompass (as Handel’s did) a variety of moods through changes of key, scoring etc. in response to the words being set. He was under orders from the Archbishop of Canterbury to avoid too much repetition of the words, so they are more concise and sectionalised than Handel’s more spacious settings.  They are:-

The King shall rejoice – sung at the recognition (of the Monarch by the People), this is a three movement work of which the middle one His honour is great provides a gentler contrast to the festive D major outside movements. The work begins in 4 parts, expanding at the end to SSAATB.

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem – sung just after the Crowning, this is the shortest and perhaps the most dramatic of the four, concluding with a magnificent swinging polyphonic movement setting the words So will we sing and praise thy power.  Hallelujah!

The Lord is a sun and a shield – the Homage Anthem, sung while the Peers of the Realm in turn swore their loyalty to the new King.  This is therefore the longest of the anthems, and for SSAATB throughout.   Of the four movements the first and last are splendid D major choruses, the second is in a graceful triple-time A  major, while the third “movement” is in fact a series of short sections, dramatically contrasted, as Boyce sought to comply with the Archbishop’s instructions!

My heart is inditing.  This was the last of the anthems, sung at Queen Charlotte’s crowning at the end of the Service.  Like Handel’s setting it therefore has a rather more feminine charm and grace to it. It is the only anthem to feature soloists – first a Tenor, later a treble duet.  But as befits the end of the whole service, the writing expands to double choir antiphony and a climax of telling splendour.

The other four anthems include I was glad, which opened the Coronation service and was sung unaccompanied by the Abbey Choir during the initial procession. This is the only one of these anthems to have been published before now.   Come Holy Ghost was written to be sung before the anointing, although the words of course are equally appropriate for Whitsuntide, Confirmations or Ordination Services.  It is a singularly beautiful setting for SSATB and continuo organ.  The other two short anthems Behold O God our defender and Let my prayer come up were sung during the Communion part of the Service.  They are miniatures most appropriate perhaps as introits.


All these Anthems are available now, both in vocal scores and with complete full scores and instrumental parts. They represent the editorial swansong of that great singer and scholar Maurice Bevan, and are published in his memory.  Looking ahead a little, the royal connection can be further celebrated in the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen’s Accession in 2012 and of her Coronation in 2013, and we are very much hoping that by that stage these splendid works will have been firmly placed on England’s musical map!  We also publish more church music by Boyce, and are always happy to deal with enquiries for other works by him.

Other anniversaries

2011 will be the 400th anniversary of Gesualdo’s death.   We publish only his Miserere, an alternative to the perhaps over-famous Allegri setting!  1611 was also the year of  Victoria’s death.  We publish his 6-part Requiem of 1605, often accounted his masterpiece, also his Missa Pro Victoria and several motets.

We are also making this a special year for reissues of  music by Sir Walter Alcock (1861-1947). A fine Priory CD of his organ music, made by Daniel Cook the Sub-Organist of Salisbury Cathedral, has stimulated demand in this area, which we are meeting.  His church music too is seeing revival, and we have several reissues in the pipeline, to join classics such as his Sanctus, written for George V’s Coronation in 1911 (another centenary!).

Alcock played the Abbey Organ at no fewer than three coronations (1902, 1911 & 1937):  his Visiting Card is said to have included the immortal line “Coronations a speciality”!

This year is also the centenary of Robert Ashfield. The much-loved Organist of Rochester Cathedral, who died only four years ago, left a small but expertly crafted body of church music.  Our recent reprints of his Christmas anthem Fairest of morning lights and the beautiful There is a stream will be joined over the coming months by further issues.

It is also the 150th anniversary if the death of Albert, the Price Consort, whose Jubilate in A we publish, and for whose memorial SS Wesley wrote All go unto one place.

Directory of Choral Music

It is worth reiterating that we have recently taken delivery of an important new aid to choral conductors.  The Directory of Choral Music by John Bawden is set to become the essential international reference book for Choral Directors and Librarians. Its 175 pages include comprehensive details of timings, orchestrations, soloist and publishers for a much larger repertoire than earlier publications, such as the NFMS guide, have encompassed.   The author is a choral singer and conductor of great experience, and this directory has been a labour of love some years in the compiling.  It is already proving a best seller!  Further information can be found on the website  www.directoryofchoralmusic.co.uk.

The Directory is available now from Cathedral Music (CM 1051), price £20, + £3 P&P.   We will also be happy to assist customers who may be hunting for any of the titles to be found in it, and in particular for some of the more obscure ones!

A fantastic treasury of information that everyone involved in choral music will want to have.  We will soon wonder how we ever managed without it!.

Jonathan Willcocks.


From now on Newsletters will appear on our Website, staying up while their contents remain current, and will then be placed in an Archive section.  

Richard Barnes