Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, June 2

Walton and the Royals

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1953, thousands crowded the route to and from London’s Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and, at the Queen's own request, the event was televised live by the BBC.

British composer William Walton was asked to write two new pieces. The first Walton’s “Coronation Te Deum”, a work that he had begun almost a decade earlier for a quite different occasion, namely the opening night of the 1944 London Proms. The piece got shifted to a back-burner when Walton was asked to work on Lawrence Olivier’s wartime film of Shakespeare’s “Henry V.”

For the new Queen’s Coronation, Walton returned to his abandoned score, writing to friends, “I’ve got cracking on the Te Deum. Lots of counter-tenors and little boys Holy-holy-ing, not to mention all the Queen’s Trumpeters and a side drum. You will like it, I think, and I hope He will too.” “He” was capitalized, so presumably Walton was referring to either the Deity -- or Winston Churchill, perhaps.

Walton was also asked to compose a “Coronation March,” which he entitled “Orb and Scepter” after a line, coincidentally, from Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” Walton’s March may have seemed a bit jazzy to the more conservative audiences of the day, but one critic, slipping into Cockney slang, gushed, “It sounds like a right royal knees-up!”

Music Played in Today's Program

William Walton (1902 – 1983) Coronation Te Deum Andrew Lumsden, organ; Finzi Singers; Paul Spicer, cond. Chandos 9222

William Walton Orb And Sceptre March English Northern Philharmonia; Paul Daniel, cond. Naxos 8.553981

Additional Information

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