The one thing Daniel Taylor did not explain in his introduction to The Coronation of King George II, presented by Toronto Summer Music Festival, last night was how on earth he, and whatever friends and substances were involved, came up with the concept. It’s not immediately apparent that interweaving some of the music from the 1727 coronation service with snippets from the liturgy while throwing in some earlier music that might have been used in earlier coronations and, to cap it all, Tardising in some Parry and Tavener makes any sense at all but in a weird way it did. There was even a real priest brought in to play the Archbishop of Canterbury (looking disturbingly like the Bishop of Bath and Wells) and an actor playing the king. Oddly it made for an hour or so of rather good music mixed with just enough levity to offset the mostly extremely lugubrious text of the liturgy.
For the occasion Mr. Taylor had assembled a small band of strings, trumpets, oboes and drums and both a chamber organ and the newly repaired organ of Walter Hall were brought into play. There was a choir of twenty including some pretty classy singers. Good use was made of the space to create different effects. Parry’s I Was Glad was sung with the choir in the back corners of the hall with the organ at stage right. Later on Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God was sung by the choir split down the sides of auditorium. This was highly effective and it made the most of a very beautiful piece; for me the musical highlight of the night. There were fanfares from suitably wonky period trumpets and drum rolls and lots of liturgical call and response of the “We are miserable sinners O Lord” – “Yes we are really miserable” variety.
Then there was Handel; Zadok the Priest and The King Shall Rejoice (natch) and Purcell (Remember Not, Lord and Hear My Prayer, O Lord and Gibbons (Drop, Drop Slow Tears) and Palestrina (Jesu, Rex Admirabilis) all sung very beautifully a capeela. The “congregation” (us) got to belt out Jerusalem before the choir kicked in with Zadok for the actual coronation followed by lots of “Long live the king!”s and a final blast of Worthy is the Lamb and the Amen from Messiah. Somehow it struck the right balance between gravity and levity and a good time was had by all.
Photos if and when.