Pomp And Circumstance? Music For A Royal Wedding

Originally published on April 27, 2011 10:08 am

If there were ever a time for thunderously grand trumpet fanfares and unfurling waves of orchestral sound, this would be it: the wedding of the heir to the throne. Of course, there's plenty of speculation about the music on the ground, even if the palace's people are keeping awfully quiet — in fact, it's completely hush-hush, at least for now.

In the lead-up to the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton this Friday, such secrecy hasn't kept marketers from trying to cash in on this global event.

In recent weeks, my inbox has been deluged with compilation after compilation (not to mention breathlessly worded press release after breathlessly worded press release) of music even vaguely related to royalty and/or weddings: Mendelssohn, Wagner, Pachelbel, Handel, Elgar, you get the idea. (Really, almost the only distinguishing factor between these releases is the order in which the tracks are listed.)

Indeed, the website that the royal family has had erected for the occasion — the not exactly imaginatively named Official Royal Wedding 2011 — currently lists only the musicians enlisted for the big day: the Choir of Westminster Abbey, the Chapel Royal Choir, the London Chamber Orchestra, the Fanfare Team from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the State Trumpeters of The Household Cavalry. (Whew. That's a lot of capitalized letters for one list, but one feels compelled to live up to the Royal Etiquette.)

There are a couple of musical hints buried on the royal website, however. One is this assurance: "Both Prince William and Miss Middleton have taken a great deal of interest and care in choosing the music for their Service, which will include a number of well-known hymns and choral works as well as some specially commissioned pieces." So no oddities from the mustier corners of the British repertoire, I guess.

And there's a video clip showing the young boys of the Chapel Royal Choir rehearsing John Gardner's "Tomorrow shall be my dancing day." It's a peppy thing, full of little lilting syncopations:

But the Telegraph has reported un petit scandale: Although he's officially Master of the Queen's Music — that is, Her Majesty's composer-on-call — Sir Peter Maxwell Davies won't have a piece heard on Friday. He wasn't asked, possibly because of public political stances he's taken. (Or maybe because his music just doesn't suit the young couple, whose tastes apparently run to Linkin Park and Kanye West.)

Just in case you were under the misapprehension that the classical music at these nuptials was somehow less than snobbish in its appeal, however, the Royal Press Release makes sure to let us know that there's even stuff for the unwashed masses:

"Entertainment in the form of show tunes, pop songs and sing-along ditties will be provided to crowds lined along the wedding procession route on the day of the Royal Wedding. The Band of the Coldstream Guards are aiming to create a lively atmosphere on the day."

We're sure that the hoi polloi will appreciate the "sing-along ditties" rather than rows of blazing brass. Thanks, House of Windsor!

Meanwhile, we're curious: If you had the task of programming such a princely playlist, what music would you select?

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