Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Classics on Sunday: I Was Glad

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IT seems to me that this week we ought to think of the Queen, who has served the country so steadfastly since her father, George VI, died in 1952 when she was only 25 years old.

This gives me the chance to play the coronation anthem I Was Glad, which I have loved since my son sang it in his school choir.

The text is based on Psalm 122 from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

1.    I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.

2.    Our feet shall stand in thy gates: O Jerusalem.

3.    Jerusalem is built as a city: that is at unity in itself.

4.    For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord: to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord.

5.    For there is the seat of judgement: even the seat of the house of David.

6.    O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

7.    Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.

8.    For my brethren and companions’ sakes: I will wish thee prosperity.

9.    Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God: I will seek to do thee good.

The psalm is a prayer for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, and its use in the coronation service draws a parallel between Jerusalem and the United Kingdom.

The psalm has been sung at the entrance of the monarch at every British coronation since that of Charles I. Settings for earlier coronations were composed by Henry Purcell and William Boyce among others.

The version used at the Queen’s coronation was composed by Sir Hubert Parry, about whom I wrote here, for the coronation of her great-grandfather King Edward VII in 1902. It sets only verses 1–3, 6, and 7.

Parry revised the anthem in 1911 for the coronation of George V, and added the familiar introduction. It was subsequently used at the coronation of the Queen’s father, George VI.

Here is the BBC film of the Queen’s coronation on June 2, 1953, narrated by Richard Dimbleby. I find it very moving to see the young Queen as she commits herself to a lifetime of service which continues to this day. The fanfare preceding I Was Glad starts at 21’ 47”.

The anthem was sung at the service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 4, 2013.

It was performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey, when Prince Harry was best man.

Here it is sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, with the score.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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