Royal wedding: What the music says about William and Kate


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After months of anticipation of the royal wedding, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- as Prince William and Kate Middleton are now called -- tied the knot Friday morning at Westminster Abbey. The 75-minute service was exactly the mix of traditional and modern that bodes well for the future of the monarchy.

While the tall trees lining the aisle of the thousand-year-old Abbey were absolutely stunning, the music choices were rather uneven.


William and Kate’s selection of Hubert Parry’s anthem ‘I Was Glad’ for the processional was inspired. Originally a coronation anthem, it represents all that is right and good about British pageantry. It is regal but never vulgar, attention-holding without ever hogging the spotlight from the main event -- in this case, a young bride on her way to marry her Prince Charming.

Photo gallery: Royal wedding coverage

The first hymn, ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer’ was a bit of an odd choice because it is most often sung at Welsh rugby matches these days, but perhaps that was part of the point. The lesson read by Kate’s brother James and the prayer William and Kate wrote for the service emphasized their intention to serve the people. The hundreds of thousands of well-wishers singing along lustily outside to ‘Guide Me’ as well as ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’ and ‘Jerusalem’ (also by Parry and most often sung at cricket matches) certainly felt that they were able to take part even outside the Abbey walls.

The two new commissions were ‘This Is the Day’ by John Rutter and a setting of the ‘Ubi caritas’ text by Welsh composer Paul Mealor. The Rutter was, well, Rutter. Pretty enough, easy for amateur choirs to sing, but immediately forgettable. There’s nothing wrong with Rutter’s compositions per se, it’s just that once you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all, so there’s very little point to a new commission.

Considering the popularity of the lovely ‘Ubi caritas’ setting by Maurice Duruflé, Paul Mealor had big shoes to fill. His music is gently dissonant and reminiscent of Eric Whitacre’s work.

While William and Kate were signing the register, the choir sang ‘Blest Pair of Sirens,’ a title screaming to be abused by naughty choirboys. This anthem is by ... you guessed it ... Hubert Parry, one of Prince Charles’ favorite composers.


On the way out, it was William Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’ march, as reported Thursday, following the recession we predicted earlier in the week: Widor’s ‘Toccata.’

There was a lot of speculation before the wedding as to the identity of the soloist, with many fearing it would be Katherine Jenkins. In the end there was no soloist at all, or any psalm setting.


Photo gallery: Royal wedding coverage

Royal wedding: Recessional music revealed

Wedding music fit for a prince and his bride

-- Marcia Adair