Who's composing the official coronation music, from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Sarah Class

Buckingham Palace has revealed that new music written specifically for the event includes a range of musical styles

King Charles III's coronation will take place on Friday, May 6. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

With King Charles III's coronation scheduled to take place on Saturday at Westminster Abbey, new details have emerged of the music planned for the historic day.

In February, Buckingham Palace announced that “12 newly commissioned pieces of music will be performed” at the coronation, which would showcase “musical talent from across the UK and the Commonwealth”.

The statement said the commissioned pieces would include a range of musical styles and performers who would blend tradition, heritage and ceremony with new musical voices to celebrate and reflect King Charles life-long support for music and the arts.

The palace this month revealed more details on the new compositions, saying King Charles has been personally involved, overseeing many aspects of the event's music programme. As a big fan of classical music, the king has commissioned world-class composers from a range of fields including classical, sacred, film, television and musical theatre.

The pieces will be contemporary interpretations of centuries of musical tradition with six of the new commissions to be performed before the service at Westminster Abbey, and then complemented by a programme of mainly British music spanning 350 years.

Composers for the coronation include renowned English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, known internationally for his musicals such as Cats, Evita and Phantom of the Opera.

Lloyd Webber has composed a new anthem entitled Make a Joyful Noise, based on Psalm 98 of the Bible.

“I had the good fortune to discuss the text with his majesty the king,” he said. “We discussed the writings of Solomon and I suggested adapting Psalm 98 with its message of 'Make A Joyful Noise unto the Lord, the King'.”

Lloyd Webber added that he played and sung the early score for King Charles and the anthem will be scored for the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Coronation Orchestra.

Award-winning Scottish film composer, Patrick Doyle, known for his work in Sense and Sensibility, Gosford Park and Harry Potter, has also created the King Charles III Coronation March. The piece was composed to celebrate the life of King Charles and carries a strong Celtic influence.

“The composition can be described as an Overture March in that it tells a story, and at times reflects aspects of His Majesty’s own character,” Doyle said.

“Overall, the piece is jubilant and uplifting. It is written to embrace the excitement and celebration of the historic day.”

King Charles also commissioned British, American, Algerian composer Tarik O'Regan to write the Agnus Dei a traditional choral composition, for a reflective moment during the coronation service.

O'Regan will mix Arabic and Irish sounds in his version of Agnus Dei.

“I wanted to explore influences from my own varied heritages within the context of the Agnus Dei in the British choral tradition: a unison melody is slowly fragmented to create myriad timbres, much as one might hear in some Arab or Irish traditional music,” O'Regan said.

Other composers include Iain Farrington with his commission of Voices of the World, a celebratory piece which combines musical themes and traditional tunes from around the Commonwealth, and Paul Mealor who has prepared the first Welsh language piece for a coronation.

Five women composers have been commissioned. These include Judith Weir, who has been Master of the King's Music since 2014 — the first woman to hold the post, along with British composer Sarah Class.

For the coronation, Class has composed Sacred Fire, which will be performed by acclaimed South African soprano Pretty Yende, who will also be the first African singer to perform solo for the coronation of a British monarch.

The lyrics of Sacred Fire conjure imagery from the Bible, while the composition Class has created aims to create a bridge between the angelic and human realms.

“It is a vision of the freedom and protection of all beings, and of the abundance and beauty of our natural world,” Class said.

“Above all, the song is a celebration of love, faith and unity, both lyrics and music reflecting the sacred flame of the soul, ever present within all beings and all things.”

The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camille marks almost 70 years since the last coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.

Updated: May 02, 2023, 5:58 AM