Press Releases

Genesis Foundation presents ‘A Tribute to the Life and Reign of Elizabeth II: A Garland for the Queen’

19 September 2022

On 11 October 2022, at the Chapel Royal of Saint Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, the Genesis Foundation presents A Tribute to the Life and Reign of Elizabeth II: 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 programme of ‘choral crown jewels’ is built around music, both sacred and secular, from collections assembled for Elizabeth II and for her Tudor predecessor, Elizabeth I: Cantiones Sacrae (1575); The Triumphs of Oriana (1601); A Garland for the Queen (1953), and Choirbook for the Queen (2012).  It includes a new jewel – a work specially commissioned by the Genesis Foundation from Cecilia McDowall, one of today’s leading composers of choral music, She draws on the text of an anthem that William Byrd composed for Elizabeth I in the late 16th century and which also appears on the programme at Saint Peter ad Vincula.

Cecilia McDowall’s ‘O Lord, Make Thy Servant, Elizabeth’ is the 30th new choral work that the Genesis Foundation has commissioned from established composers – such as Sir James MacMillan, Will Todd and Roxanna Panufnik – and emerging composers,  including Ruth Byrchmore, Lisa Robertson and Marco Galvani. The Foundation is now established as the largest commissioner of choral music in the UK.

The concert is the fifth in a series that the Genesis Foundation has presented since 2016 in historic places of worship. The others, all with 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, bringing inspiration to a huge global audience. The same will hold true for the concert in St Peter ad Vincula, aptly reflecting the place that Queen Elizabeth II holds in history, and in the hearts and minds of many millions of people all over the world.

In addition to the concert, 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.

Up to 170 people will attend A Tribute to the Life and Reign of Elizabeth II: A Garland for the Queen. Online viewers interested in receiving additional content, including behind-the-scenes footage, the concert programme and extended interviews, can sign up here.

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

“Reflecting on Elizabeth II’s long life and illustrious reign, we could think of no better way to pay her homage than to craft a programme that sets music written in her honour beside works composed for the first Queen Elizabeth.

“This concert will take place in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, a sacred space in the heart of the historical Tower of London and one of very few places of worship under direct jurisdiction of a monarch.

“We are pleased that this occasion can be marked with the premiere of ‘O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth’ commissioned from composer Cecilia McDowall by the Genesis Foundation. In paying tribute to Byrd’s serene anthem of the same name, it also pays tribute to the glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth II. McDowall’s new work will be set in a programme alongside pieces from a number of composers, including Tallis, Vaughan Williams and Britten.

A Garland for the Queen honours the lives and reigns of both Queen Elizabeths, and in association with Classic FM, we are inviting audiences all over the world to join us in this respectful celebration.”

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

The Genesis Foundation is honoured to pay tribute to Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign and lifetime of service with a choral concert in the Chapel Royal of the Tower of London. While her Majesty brought unity to multi-faith Britain and the Commonwealth, music – like all the arts – has the power to cross boundaries and bring people together, no matter what their faith or beliefs. This concert pays tribute to our late Queen with music spanning five centuries, and I cannot think of a more fitting occasion for the premiere of Cecilia McDowell’s new work for choir and harp. It is the Genesis Foundation’s 30th commission of sacred choral music, and in this historic venue at this contemplative time it will carry special significance.”

A video providing background to the concert can be viewed here. 

A Tribute to the Life and Reign of Elizabeth II: A Garland for the Queen – Programme 

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 tribute to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

** In tribute to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II