King Charles III's coronation: 5 sacred songs that will be performed

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(CP) King Charles III will be coronated on Saturday, with a ceremony that will feature music and a Christian liturgy approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Charles assumed the throne following the death of his mother, long-serving Queen Elizabeth II, in September.

The details of the coronation were released by The Church of England in advance of the royal ceremony, which will include aspects that are steeped in centuries of tradition.

As the monarch of England also serves as the head of the established Church of England, there will also be Scripture readings and musical selections of a Christian nature.

Here are five songs that will be part of the coronation ceremony for King Charles III of England. They include both older hymns and recently created pieces.

'Prevent Us, O Lord'

The choral piece "Prevent Us, O Lord," which was composed by prolific Elizabethan era songwriter William Byrd, is scheduled to be sung shortly after King Charles III takes his official oath.

Byrd, a Catholic who lived between 1543 and 1623, became a favorite composer for Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and wrote music for both religious and secular occasions, as well as lyrics in both English and Latin.

'Kyrie, eleison'

The acclamation "Kyrie, eleison," which is Latin for the phrase "Lord, have mercy," has a long history of being used in both liturgy and sacred music, having been used for centuries.

For the coronation of King Charles III, a new choral version by modern composer Paul Mealor will be used, which will also reportedly be the first Welsh language performance at an English coronation.

The song will be performed after the Archbishop of Canterbury kicks off the ceremony with a greeting and introduction.

"It is a meditative, introspective piece based on a blend between Gregorian chant and 'Cerdd Dant' (Welsh Penillion singing — an important part of eisteddfodau)," said Mealor in a statement released last month.

"I was inspired by the great Welsh tunes — Aberystwyth, Cwm Rhondda, Ar Lan Y Môr — and the composition is colored by the harmonies of these songs. It is a cry from the deep soul of the hills and valleys of Wales for hope, peace, love and friendship."

'Christ is Made the Sure Foundation'

"Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" is a hymn that comes from the Medieval Era, composed by an unknown author in Latin in the seventh century and later translated into English by John Mason Neale during the 19th century. It is scheduled to serve as the offertory hymn during the coronation service.

"Neale's original translation has been altered significantly for today's hymnals, and the flowing plainsong melody has been replaced by the stately tune Westminster Abbey composed by the famous English composer Henry Purcell," wrote C. Michael Hawn, director of pastoral music for the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

"Yet something of this song from deep in our Christian past remains and still informs our faith today if we will allow ourselves to sing with the saints."


Television and film composer Debbie Wiseman created a two-part composition, "Alleluia (O Clap your Hands)" and "Alleluia (O Sing Praises)," specifically for the coronation ceremony.

"Alleluia (O Clap your Hands)" will be sung in between a reading from the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, scheduled to be read by U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Gospel. "Alleluia (O Sing Praises)" will be sung in between the Gospel and the sermon.

According to a statement by the British Royal Family, "O Clap Your Hands" will be sung by the Westminster Abbey Choir while "O Sing Praises" will be performed by The Ascension Choir, marking the first time a gospel choir has performed at a Coronation.

"The Coronation is a solemn religious ceremony and the natural inclination is to go for a reverential hymn-like approach, but I was keen to make this piece, above all, joyful and celebratory of the new King and the new era," said Wiseman.

"Part of the liturgical text says 'O sing unto God with the voice of melody' and when my melodies are sung by the wonderful voices of the world-renowned Choir of Westminster Abbey, I can't absolutely confirm they'll reach heaven but they'll certainly raise the roof."

'Zadok the Priest'

Originally composed in 1727 by Georg Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II, "Zadok the Priest" has been sung at every English Coronation since then, including that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It will be sung during the anointing, where Charles will receive the coronation oil.

The lyrics are derived from the Bible, specifically 1 Kings 1:38-48, which describes the anointing of Solomon as king of ancient Israel, to succeed his father David.

"Since Handel composed the piece, it's been a perennial favorite (it's actually the first piece we ever broadcast on Classic FM), and it's perhaps best known nowadays as the inspiration for the UEFA Champions League Anthem," noted Classic FM.

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