Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and first performed by the BBC Singers and BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Bramwell Tovey at the Royal Albert Hall, London at BBC Proms 2022 on 22nd July 2022.
Your Servant, Elizabeth, commissioned for the 2022 Platinum Jubilee celebration at the BBC Proms, also pays homage to William Byrd’s O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth, a prayer for Queen Elizabeth I written over 400 years ago. When the BBC approached me about this new work, with the stipulation that it use both Byrd’s music and text as a starting point, my initial delight was tinged with apprehension. What would I be able to add? Might it not be a better idea to simply perform this masterpiece of polyphony twice in tonight’s concert?
My way ‘in’ eventually came through words. Whilst Byrd’s music will never date, the excerpts he adapted from Psalm 21 for his text concentrated solely on the relationship between the monarch and her God, and felt incomplete in the context of tonight’s 21st century celebration. For the past year I have had the great fortune to be a Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College Oxford, and so I turned to the college Chaplain, the Revd Canon Dr Simon Jones, for advice. Were there excerpts of other Psalms that I could incorporate, in order to extol not just Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with God, but with us? Simon’s spine-tinglingly inspiring idea, that Byrd’s text be put into dialogue with Queen Elizabeth II’s own words, freed me to see this commission in an entirely new light. I imagined William in the act of writing his choral prayer, Queen Elizabeth II speaking directly to us, and revelled in stretching and transforming Byrd’s music in service of this new conversation across the centuries.
- Choral Highlights 2022
- In recent months and for the season ahead the Wise Music choral catalogues are once again burgeoning with new works. There are new pieces and publications from Richard Allain, Peter Bruun, Britta Byström, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Matthew Martin, Paul Mealor, Nico Muhly, Owain Park, Joby Talbot and Judith Weir, plus new repertoire from recent Australian signing Ross Edwards.
- BBC Proms 2022: Premieres and performances
- 26th April 2022
- There is nothing in the world quite like the BBC Proms. 2022 is no exception with a host of Wise Music Classical new commissions and notable performances.