Classical music is for life, not just for funerals


The touching procession of the late Queen’s coffin through central London
was accompanied by mournful and funereal music by Beethoven, Chopin and Mendelssohn. Yet elsewhere, calm reigned, as hall after hall canceled their musical performances and turned off the lights “as a sign of respect to the Queen”.

The irony of marking the Queen’s death by silencing the music has not been lost
followers of royal events. When so much classical music is diverted to
niche channels, or vying for attention on movie and game soundtracks, the only time a truly mass audience can see pure, pure classical music is at royal weddings and funerals , where she brings beauty, grandeur and, if necessary, solace.

And so it was again, delivering the goods at the Queen’s funeral, for
organ music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and many others, trumpets sounding from above and many choral works, including new compositions by the current King’s Master of Music, Judith Weir, and the Scottish composer James Macmillan. There was a hymn by Hubert Parry, a favorite of King Charles III, who in 2011 honored him in a film called The Prince and the Composer.

“The music was really extraordinary. There was something amazing about the acoustics,” a friend who attended the funeral told me. When everyone
sang, she said, “it was like we were lifting the roof… The guards on the
balcony with their trumpets turned in different directions, and the last post,
and waking up, breathtaking… “Music may not be seen as a ‘fundamental’ subject at school, music teacher Simon Leeson said after the funeral, but ‘it was essential during the lesson. of the last hour”.

And it has been at the heart of many royal events paraded on our screens.
Prince Philip’s funeral was made even more poignant when normally heavy people
the choir had to be replaced by four voices due to Covid restrictions, the “stunning” performance of Australian soprano Miriam Allan and three lay people
clerks hauntingly reflecting the difficult moment in which the funeral took place. Princess Diana’s funeral, musically linked to Elton John’s reworking of her candle in the windalso gave fame and power to John Tavener’s painful slowness and beauty Song for Athenaa composition that is both modern and very old in its sound.

As far as weddings go, it was Charles and Diana’s wedding that catapulted New Zealand soprano, Kiri te Kanawa to superstardom as she sang. Let the seraphim shine in a multicolored dress and a bright blue hat. Harry and Meghan’s nuptials introduced teenager Sheku Kanneh-Mason – the first black musician to become BBC Young Musician of the Year – to an audience of 18million, as he performed Sicilian by von Paradis, by Fauré After a dream and Schubert Ave Maria while the new Duke and Duchess signed the register.

Outside of weddings and funerals, it’s less certain. How did the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert go without classical performers such as Tommaso’s Freddie – who in December became the first British tenor in 60 years to sing the male lead role of Cavaradossi in Verdi’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House? The Queen was associated with outdoor pursuits in the countryside, but she knew how to play the piano and, as Weir told the Time“took a genuine interest in what musicians do…she conversed with them in a very sympathetic way that made you think she understood what it was like, as she did, to get on a stage in front of thousands of people and play in this moment and do it right.

Still, indie musicians lost money as bookings were canceled in what sounds more like a signal of virtue. Even the Last Night of the Proms was not on the menu. chauvinism Britannias Rule and the waving of the flag may not have matched the mood, but couldn’t a more gloomy and thoughtful program be possible?

Even more shocking is that it happened as a new king with a passion for classical music took over. Patron of several musical groups, from the
Philharmonia to the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, the King even has a
official harpist after returning to a role that disappeared in the late Victorian era, to encourage new talent and raise the profile of the instrument.

The King played the cello as a student and sang with the Bach Choir. He has spoken on Radio 3 and Radio 4 about his love of music and in 2020 worked with Classic FM on two shows featuring his favorites including the two piano concertos by Frédéric Chopin, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Richard Strauss’ Last Four Songs. He spoke of the huge difference music can make to well-being, the precarious livelihoods of orchestras and performers and the huge contribution of music and the arts to the UK economy.

Could the King’s interest give classical music a bigger public platform? This is
hope. As classical music writer Ariane Todes said after her late mother’s funeral, “It was all really beautiful. Remember, folks, classical music is for life, not just funerals! »


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