PHI CD 183: British Choral Tradition Volume Two - Choirs Royal - Choral Music from the 1937 Coronation and the Choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, Recorded 1926 - 1933

Choral Music from the 1937 Coronation of Their
Majesties King George VI & Queen Elizabeth
[1] I was glad (Hubert Parry) (Entrance of the King & Queen)
[2] Let my Prayer come up (Edward Bairstow) (Communion Introit)
[3] Zadok the Priest (Handel), introduced by Rev. F.A. Iremonger
[4] Confortare: Be strong and play the Man (Walford Davies)
[5] O Praise God in His Holiness (George Dyson)
choral.html [6] Thou will keep him (S.S. Wesley)
[7] O hearken Thou (William H. Harris)
[8] Gloria in Excelsis in B flat (Charles Stanford)
[9] Festival Te Deum in F Major founded on traditional tunes (Vaughan Williams)

[1] to [9] recorded live Westminster Abbey, London, 12 May 1937.
Taken from H.M.V. special commemorative 78 r.p.m. record album of the actual service: H.M.V. RG 1-15. H.M.V. had a direct line from the B.B.C. radio broadcast of the service.
Controllers of B.B.C. broadcast: S.J. de Lotbinière (Director outside Broadcasts) &
R.H. Wood (Engineer in Charge of Outside Broadcasts - London Area).

The Choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, Recorded 1926 - 1933

Directed by Walford Davies, Dr. William. H. Harris & Revd. Dr. Edmund H. Fellows
[10] Glorious and Powerful God (Charles V. Stanford) 9303. Rec. 8/7/27
[11] Magnificat & [12] Nunc Dimittis in G (Stanford) Rec.7/12/26
[13] Easter Processional - O filii et filiae (arr. Walford Davies) Rec.9/10/31
[14] O Saviour of the World (Goss) Rec. 7/12/26
[15] Hosanna to the Son of David (Orlando Gibbons) Rec. 8/12/26
[16] O thou the central orb (Charles Wood) Rec. 9/10/31
[17] O strength and Stay (Bourgeois arr. W.H. Harris) Rec. 4/10/33
[18] The Manger throne (C. Steggall) Rec. 8/7/27
[19] Lord it belongs not to thy care (Walford Davies) Rec. 8/7/30
[20] Coronation Offertorium of 1910:
O hearken thou unto the voice of my calling (Edward Elgar) Rec. 3/7/29
[21] National Anthem (arr. Caley) &
Psalm of thanksgiving On the occasion of the Kings recovery July 1929
(Allington & Walford Davies) Rec. 3/7/29

[10], [11], [14], [15] & [18] Directed by the Revd. Dr. Edmund H. Fellows.
[13], [16], [19], [20] & [21] Directed by Walford Davies. [17] Directed by Dr. William. H. Harris.
[10] Rec. in the Quire of St. George's Chapel. [14] Rec. in the Nave.
[11] [12] & [18] Rec. in the Nave with Chamber Organ.
[13] Rec. in the Nave of recently re-opened Chapel with rebuilt Walker-Rothwell organ
(rebuild Harrison's 1965).
[16] & [17] Rec. in the Quire of the re-opened Chapel with rebuilt Walker-Rothwell organ.
[19] Rec. in St. George's Hall.
[20] & [21] Rec. in St George's Hall with Father Willis organ (destroyed in the fire of 1992).
[10] - [21] Recorded by the Columbia Graphophone Company record catalogue numbers in italics


The recordings of the 1937 Coronation came from the collection of the later John Rothera of York. Recordings of the Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor were kindly provided by David Michell of London, Colin Charnley of Warto n, Preston and Edward Jackson of Sunbury on Thames (a former chorister St George's), who also provided many of the photograph for the booklet. I am also grateful to the later two gentlemen for their interesting and informative articles. Douglas Carrington of Lythmn St. Anne's also provided invaluable documentary information relating to the 1937 Coronation.
Martin J. Monkman, Amphion Recordings, November, 2003

RELEASED 21/11/03


The Music for the 1937 Coronation
The 1937 Coronation came out of the crisis which struck the monarchy when Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936 so he could marry the American divorcée, Wallis Simpson, 'the woman I love'. As for the choral music performed on this great occasion below I quote excepts from Edwin Evans's article, Coronation Music through the Ages, which appeared in the 1937 Coronation Edition of Radio Times.
'There are two kinds of Coronation Music: that which forms part of the actual Coronation Service in Westminster Abbey, and the compositions intended for performance at concerts and on other secular occasions during the Coronation season. The music of the Coronation Service is largely governed by precedent, in combination with the natural desire of each generation of musicians to find itself represented. This is the reason why we find the same text and reset for different Coronations. Thus the inclusion of Zadok the Priest is very ancient. It can be tracked back to the Coronations of our Saxon monarchs.......
By the Coronation of George II, the great figure in English music was the saxon Handel. For that occasion he wrote four Coronation anthems, the first of which Zadok the Priest has been used at every Coronation since, and will be sung at the Abbey on May 12.
The English musical renaissance had dawned by the Coronation of Edward VII on August 9, 1902. Sir Frederick Bridge, who was organist at the Abbey from 1875 to 1918, and officiated at two Coronations, arranged the music and composed an anthem for each occasion, but the door was wide open to composers of note. It was for the Coronation of Edward VII that Parry set, once again I was Glad, his version of which was revised for George V and will be repeated on May 12. A feature of the service was the revival of the Confortare - Be Strong - which had lapsed since the seventeenth century. It was set by the then Master of the Kings Musick, Sir Walter Parratt, and following that precedent, it has been reset for George VI by the present holder of that office, Sir Walford Davies. At the Coronation of George V, on June 11 1911, the principal new works were Stanford's Gloria in excelsis which is to be sung again on May12, Parry's Te Deum and the Coronation March by Elgar. The most important of the works newly composed for the pending Coronation service is Vaughan Williams's Te Deum which takes the place of Parry's. Sir Edward Bairstow, of York Minster; Dr. W.H. Harris of St. George's Chapel, Windsor and Dr. George Dyson are other composers represented.'

Recording the 1937 Coronation by Colin Charnley
To a great extent, recording the Coronation in 1937 depended on the co-operation of the B.B.C. As the E.M.I. House Journal The Voice put it "It would not have been practicable to duplicate solely for recording purposes the very elaborate technical preparations made within the Abbey". This is true as it would have been well nigh impossible for E.M.I. with all its resources to duplicate the 28 B.B.C. microphones of that era in the Abbey without making the arrangements unacceptably intrusive to say the least. Apart from this, only the B.B.C. had the technicians and other staff with the right sort of expertise to do the task at all. And so it was decided that for the Coronation, E.M.I. should take a feed from the Westminster Abbey B.B.C. control room, using a private telephone line connected to the Abbey Road studios in St. John's Wood. E.M.I. staff paid a visit to the Abbey a week before the Coronation in order to time the length of anthems and other liturgical music with a view to planning probable side breaks. Although the Gramophone Company had considerable experience in relaying sound across London for recording, new "equalizers"were brought into use on this occasion to offset the attenuation of upper musical frequencies on long lines.
What of the service itself? Well, it was introduced and outlined by B.B.C. commentator at the Abbey, Howard Marshall. Thereafter, unlike in recent times, no commentary was undertaken throughout and listeners had recourse to the order of service published in the Radio Times. During the service itself only the Rubrics were read on air by the Chaplain to the King and Director of Religion at the B.B.C. Revd. F.A. Iremonger from high in the triforium beyond the altar. Only one major concession to the solemnity of the service was made when the Abbey microphones were shut off during the most sacred part of The Holy Communion when a choir singing a communion hymn at St. Margaret's Church next to the Abbey filled the interval.
At St. John's Wood the incoming signal was split into two channels and connected to two pairs of disc cutting lathes as was normal for "one take" records. These had been balanced, controlled and matched for consistent levels and quality and the power of amplification to the recorders was of such magnitude as to "provide a considerable safety factor against any possibility of blast or overloading due to sudden fortes or the like". Also, according to The Voice, special waxes had been selected and aged suitably by heating them gradually over several days to accomplish this. At the close a van sped the recorded waxes from Abbey road to Hayes, with police assistance, where they were processed and sampled with all haste.
One further relay to Abbey Road took place when the King gave a speech from Buckingham Palace during the evening when the same procedure was used. The finished discs were numbered RG1 to RG14, plus the King's speech, which were retailed at five shillings each. These records were also available in a bound commemorative album set.
There remains one mystery; is what we hear today an edited version transferred by H.M.V. onto new masters for public issue? A clue may lie in what sounds like a side break in the middle of Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace; but this is only a minor matter in what was the very first state event of this magnitude to be broadcast or recorded and today we can again enjoy the exhilarating music from that glittering event of 1937.
© Colin Charnley, 2003

Broadcasting the 1937 Coronation by Colin Charnley
With Radio currently enjoying something of a renaissance, and at this considerable distance in time, it is all too easy to dismiss the B.B.C. of the 1930's as probably being a somewhat primitive affair. All the evidence clearly points the other way and such a viewpoint could really only have any credibility by the amazing technical standards of today. By 1937 the B.B.C. had well over ten years of experience to draw on, it had long since moved from incommodious premises at Savoy Hill to the modern purpose-built Broadcasting House in Portland Place and, under the Direction of John Reith it may have been stuffy but it was powerful in every sense of the word. It was a major organisation and employer and because of its policy to set a lot of store by research and development had become a world leader. Equally, it saw itself as not only speaking to the Nation but also the Dominions so the foresight that led to the commencement of Empire Broadcasting in 1926 gave it a head start second to none. This was particularly true ten years later as war clouds gathered over Europe. In the field of television the B.B.C. was much less sure of what the future held. Yet in the late 1920's it was, whilst acknowledging that these were early days, seriously discussing how drama would be enhanced by its introduction. As early as 1932 a pioneering B.B.C. television studio had been experimentally set up in Broadcasting House.
Generally, the very earliest radio receivers had been built by enthusiasts, but by the mid 1930's all this had changed and reliable mass produced valve sets were on sale or rent in a multitude of shapes and sizes. The common lack of domestic mains electricity was no obstacle for most wireless sets were available in battery, mains electric in A.C. or D.C. form and included long, medium and short wave reception. The radio trade, never one to miss a trick, saw the Coronation as a major sales opportunity and Philco for example, advertised their Coronation Empire Receiver on a full page in the Radio Times (see page 8). In parallel with all this audience figures both at home and overseas grew exponentially.
By 1936 the B.B.C. was ready to competitively test both the E.M.I. electronic and Baird semi-mechanical systems for television at their newly acquired premises in a wing of London's Alexandra Palace. In the event the superior E.M.I. 405 line system was chosen and by 1937 there were sufficient technical resources available for the B.B.C. to televise some tennis from Wimbledon and a part of the Coronation Royal Procession to the few thousand viewers fortunate enough to own or be near a set in greater London. This was the worlds first regular public television service, and at the time the B.B.C. engineers involved were nick named by the colleagues in B.B.C. radio as 'the fools on the hill'!
Whilst television still had serious coverage limitations, no such problems applied to radio. We can be sure, therefore, that the well-organised short wave Empire broadcasting organisation of the B.B.C. enabled the first broadcast of a Coronation to be heard practically throughout the world. At home, those owning a wireless would no doubt invite less fortunate neighbours for a day of rejoicing which happily marked the end of a period of crisis for our Monarchy.
© Colin Charnley, 2003