Genesis Foundation presents ‘A Garland for the Queen’ at the Tower of London

27 July 2022

In honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, on 11 October 2022 at the Chapel Royal of Saint Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, the Genesis Foundation presents A Garland for the Queen. This hour-long choral concert by The Sixteen, conceived and conducted by the group’s founder Harry Christophers, will be attended by an invited audience and live-streamed globally on Classic FM’s Facebook page – the world’s most followed arts & culture page.

The ‘choral crown jewels’ that form A Garland for the Queen range from the 16th to the 21st century. The programme is built around selections from books of choral music assembled for both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II: Cantiones Sacrae (1575); The Triumphs of Oriana (1601); A Garland for the Queen (1953), and Choirbook for the Queen (2012).  Prominent among the other items in the concert is the world premiere of a work commissioned by the Genesis Foundation – its 30th commission of contemporary sacred choral music since 1998: ‘O Lord, make thy servant, Elizabeth’ by Cecilia McDowall, one of the UK’s leading choral composers. Inspired by, and performed alongside William Byrd’s anthem of the same name, it will complement works by Thomas Tallis, Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Morley, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Charles Villiers Stanford, Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett and Richard Rodney Bennett.

The concert is the fifth in a series that the Genesis Foundation has presented since 2016 in historic places of worship. The others, all given by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers, have taken place at: the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace; the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican; Eton College Chapel, and Farm Street Church, London.  All the events have been live-streamed by Classic FM, attracting a global audience. The Genesis Foundation has commissioned 30 sacred music works to date – from established composers such as James MacMillan, Will Todd and Roxanna Panufnik to emerging composers including Ruth Byrchmore, Lisa Robertson and Anna Semple – making it the largest commissioner of choral music in the UK.

In addition to live-streaming A Garland for the Queen, Classic FM will webcast a five-minute performance by young professional-level singers from the Genesis Sixteen training programme, which was established in 2011. It will be pre-recorded in the Tower of London’s other Chapel Royal, the intimate St John the Evangelist. This exquisite example of Romanesque architecture, built in the 11th century as part of the White Tower, served as a private chapel when royalty was in residence.

On 11 October the audience at the Tower of London will be greeted by two giant puppets representing the heraldic figures of the Lion and the Unicorn, which appear on the Royal coat of arms. Made of recycled materials, the puppets were created by the award-winning theatre company Box Tale Soup for the recent global Expo in Dubai.

Up to 170 people will attend A Garland for the Queen. Audiences interested in receiving additional content including behind-the-scenes footage, programme and extended interviews can sign up here.

Commenting on the programme he has conceived, Harry Christophers says:

“In marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee year, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to craft a programme of music written in her honour, set alongside works composed for the first Queen Elizabeth. This concert will take place in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vinucla, a sacred space in the heart of the historical Tower of London, which in itself holds a unique position in this celebration, being one of very few places of worship under direct jurisdiction of a Monarch. We are thrilled that this occasion can be marked with a premiere of the Genesis Foundation commission O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth by composer Cecilia McDowall. This work is a tribute to Byrd’s triumphant anthem of the same name, but also to the lasting and successful reign of our Queen. McDowall’s work will be set in a programme alongside celebratory pieces from a number of composers, including Thomas Morley and Benjamin Britten.

Here we are celebrating a staggering 70 years in honour of our Queen, and in connection with Classic FM, we are inviting audiences all over the world to join us in marking the occasion.”

John Studzinski, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, says:

In the year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Genesis Foundation is honoured to celebrate her Majesty’s 70-year reign with a choral concert in the Tower of London’s Chapel Royal. Music, like all the arts, has the power to cross boundaries and to bring people together, no matter what their faith or beliefs. Throughout her reign Her Majesty has brought unity to multi-faith Britain and the Commonwealth, and this concert pays tribute to her with music spanning five centuries. I cannot think of a more fitting occasion for the premiere of Cecilia McDowell’s new work for choir and harp, the Genesis Foundation’s 30th commission of sacred choral music. We look forward to its first performance in this most historic of venues.”

A Garland for the Queen – Programme

A Garland for the Queen

Thomas Morley                       Hard by a crystal fountain*

Thomas Tallis                          O sacrum convivium*  

William Byrd                           O lux beata Trinitas*  

Sir Michael Tippett                  Dance, Clarion Air**

William Byrd                           O Lord, make thy servant, Elizabeth * 

Charles Villiers Stanford         The Blue Bird**

Benjamin Britten                     Gloriana Dances for tenor, harp and choir**

Ralph Vaughan Williams        Silence and Music**

Cecilia McDowall                   O Lord, make thy servant, Elizabeth†**

Richard Rodney Bennett         These Three**

Thomas Tallis/William Byrd   Miserere nostri* 

William Byrd                           This sweet and merry month of May* 

Thomas Weelkes                     As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending*

† World premiere

* In celebration of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

** In celebration of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II

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