Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crowd-pleasing Coronation anthem hit the mark effortlessly
Of all the new commissions for the coronation, Lord Lloyd-Webber’s new anthem ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ was the one that drew the most attention, both literally and metaphorically. When Lloyd Webber gave an early preview of it to the king, with whom he shares a love of choral music and architecture, the composer said it brought tears to our new monarch’s feet and gave him goosebumps.
That’s when Lloyd Webber simply tapped out the tune on a piano during a private meeting. One wonders what the king felt when he heard it in all its glory – trumpets, cymbals and drum rolls included. He certainly gave one of the few quiet smiles he allowed himself during this most solemn of ceremonies. It finally arrived shortly after the coronation of his wife, the Queen.
The hymn is mostly set to the words of the joyfully solemn Psalm 98 – O Sing Unto the Lord A New Song – with a little rearrangement. Lloyd Webber told the Telegraph earlier this week that the emphasis on “the Lord” is to remind us that the king sees himself as a servant of God. “Charles wants us to understand that he doesn’t want people to think he’s the ‘lord’ — he’s king, but he has a responsibility to something greater.”
The track was first heard during the coronation and the live recording of it is released today as a single to raise money for Age UK and the Royal British Legion, two charities chosen by the King and Queen.
The King, who personally asked Lloyd Webber to create the track, wanted it to be “hummable,” a challenge the composer didn’t struggle with for such catchy tunes as “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Memory.” . After the triumphalism of the opening trumpet fanfare and the mature male voices we hear first, it was the angelic sound of the choirboys as they walked in with, “He has remembered his mercy and his truth…” that evoked the emotion and its sweetest offered melody.
Lloyd Webber is a master of accessible theatrics and this play is a fine example of the intelligent populism he has made his trademark. The hymn conveys a childlike wonder that conjures up the image of Lloyd Webber himself as a young boy, sitting in the abbey as he did many times as a student at nearby Westminster Under School, awed by this building, which he called the largest Gothic architecture has been called in the world.
Lloyd Webber loves the numinous. After the cascade of catchy notes that accompany the main chorus comes a more mystical passage that reaches into the sublime. There is a sense of nostalgia here for the mid-20th century heyday of English music, led by William Walton and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
“Some melodies last forever, you torment and torment. This one came very quickly,” said Lloyd Webber. “It wrote itself, one morning before Christmas. Once I found the lyrics, it was easy.” It’s hard to imagine that much of the day’s complicated planning was easy, but this crowd favorite hit the mark with ease.
The full lyrics:
MAKE a sound of joy to the Lord for He has done wonderful things. And his holy arm brought him victory. He remembered his mercy and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. O make the lord of all earth a clatter of joy. make a loud noise; rejoice and sing his praises. Let the sea roar, the world and those who live in it. Let the tide clap your hands; let the hills be merry together. Make a sound of joy to the Lord in all the earth. Rejoice and sing his praises. For he comes to judge the earth. And with righteousness he will judge the world and the people with righteousness. O make the lord of all earth a clatter of joy. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and cornets, make a joyful noise before the Lord the King.
– Andrew Lloyd Webber (born 1948) based on Psalm 98 composed for this service