King chooses singers from Harry and Meghan’s wedding for first gospel choir at coronation

Abimbola Amoako-Gyampa

Abimbola Amoako-Gyampa

The gospel choir performing at the King’s coronation will be music to Prince Harry’s ears as they sang at his wedding.

The Ascension Choir, a group of eight ‘hand-picked’ singers from the choir who performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has been chosen for the King’s ceremony on 6 May.

A lifelong music lover and advocate of the arts, the King oversaw, influenced and was personally involved in the commissioning process and details of his coronation musical plan.

King Charles’ decision to include a gospel choir in the proceedings for the first time follows an invitation he extended to South London’s Kingdom Choir to perform at his son’s wedding to Meghan Markle in May 2018.

The group performed a rendition of the Ben E King song Stand By Me during the ceremony at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

It was alleged at the time that the Duke and Duchess had invited the group to perform, but the choir director later corrected the recording, telling The Telegraph: ‘It actually came from Prince Charles. He is the one who loves the gospel”.

Now a select few of the bunch will take to the stage at the king’s coronation.

The Duchess will skip the show and stay in California with Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, extending a prolonged absence from public events.

Led by Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah, the Ascension Choir will sing Alleluia (O Sing Praises) at the ceremony on May 6, becoming the first gospel group to perform at Westminster Abbey for a coronation.

Composer Debbie Wiseman - Alamy

Composer Debbie Wiseman – Alamy

The group will sing during the main service as part of a two-part composition which was commissioned by award-winning film and television composer Debbie Wiseman.

Wiseman said the group, which includes four male and four female singers, is “extremely professional, talented and experienced”.

“They are eight singers selected from the choir who sang at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” he told The Telegraph.

“The singer’s name is Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah, she is her choir and she brought together the other singers.

“It was hand-picked by King Charles and I was asked to write the music, so I wrote a special piece for them and we rehearsed it together.

“It’s the first time that a gospel choir has performed at a coronation, it’s fantastic, it will warm everyone’s heart.”

Paul Melor

Paul Melor

Another first at the King’s coronation ceremony will be Paul Mealor’s Welsh-language coronation kyrie performance.

The song, which Mealor described as “a deep-souled cry from the hills and dales of Wales for hope, peace, love and friendship”, will be sung by bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel and by the Westminster Abbey Choir in the main part of the service.

New details of the music to be played at the King’s service were announced by the Palace on Saturday, exactly three weeks before the event.

The announcement detailed the themes of the music which was specially commissioned by King Charles as well as an overview of the compositional process.

The 12 new commissions for the ceremony offer a contemporary interpretation of traditional music by world-renowned composers across the fields of classical, film, sacred, television and musical theatre.

Their compositions range from orchestra, lead vocals to choir, resulting in a varied and accessible musical program for the momentous occasion.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who was commissioned to write the king’s coronation anthem for the service, said he was lucky enough to discuss the song’s inspirational lyrics with the monarch.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber - PA

Andrew Lloyd-Webber – PA

He said: “We discussed Solomon’s writings and I suggested adapting Psalm 98 with his message of Make a joyful noise to the Lord the King.

“It feels so fitting at the time of the coronation service. I played and rehearsed my first soundtrack for The King a few weeks ago.

“I have composed a short opening and closing fanfare, to be played by the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force. The anthem is composed by the wonderful Westminster Abbey Choir and the Coronation Orchestra.

The Palace said six of the new songs were composed for orchestra and will be performed before the service begins, before the King and Queen Consort arrive at the Abbey.

This pre-service commission will be composed by Judith Weir, Master of the King’s Music, and will be the first performance by the Coronation Orchestra.

Ms Weir said: “The opening passage highlights the horns, an instrument historically associated in music and art with nobility.”

He added that “the music’s upbeat ascending scales suggest renewal and hope for the future.”

Westminster Abbey - Reuters

Westminster Abbey – Reuters

The Coronation Orchestra comprises players from eight leading orchestras under the then Patronage of the Prince of Wales, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Vasko Vassilev, principal guest concertmaster of the Royal Opera House Orchestra, leads the charge of the orchestra throughout the day.

He said he was “humbled to be honoured”, adding that as a naturalized British citizen he was “particularly proud to participate in the history and music of this Kingdom, united in diversity”.

The coronation orchestra will be joined by Alis Huws, the royal harpist, for Sir Karl Jenkins’ Tros y Garreg (Crossing the Stone), a song reflecting the King’s steadfast affection for and support of Welsh culture.

Also during the pre-service interval, Iain Farrington’s Voices of the World organ commission will be performed as a celebratory musical offering paying tribute to the diversity of the Commonwealth.

It combines traditional tunes from across the family of nations and is all “blended together in a joyous, jazzy, dance-like character,” Farrington said.

The musical choices for the ceremony reflect the King’s plans to make his coronation as inclusive as possible.

His coronation march errand, written by film composer Patrick Doyle, is described as a pompous, ceremonial song, leading to a triumphant finale.

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

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

The Palace said five of the new commissions would be included in the main service, featuring voices from the Westminster Abbey Choir and Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal Choir, plus singers from Truro Cathedral and Methodist College Belfast, along with singers of the Monteverdi Choir.

The King also commissioned Tarik O’Regan to lead the main service after hearing his music at Lincoln Cathedral in 2006.

O’Regan wrote the Agnus Dei for the ceremony, which will be celebrated during a moment of reflection in the historic service.

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