Write your own Coronation Anthem
What is a coronation?
A coronation is a ceremony to mark the official crowning of a new monarch. In Great Britain, this takes place in Westminster Abbey, London as a Christian service guided by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The congregation, or audience, of this special occasion is made up of leaders and diplomats from all over the world and from many different religions.
What did Handel have to do with coronations?
In 1727, George Frideric Handel was asked to write the coronation anthems by the new King George II. Handel wrote 4 exquisite pieces of music for the occasion: Zadok the Priest, Let Thy Hand be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart is Inditing. Handel chose biblical texts to set to music that were full of joy and excitement to emphasise the importance of the event and the importance of the new King. Zadok the Priest is perhaps the most famous of the coronation anthems, and it has since been used in every coronation since 1727 and new versions have been created and arranged for television, e.g. the Champions League theme tune.
Who will you write your anthem for?
Look at the words of Zadok the Priest to get a sense of the joy and excitement that Handel wanted to convey. Phrases such as ‘And all the people Rejoic’d’, ‘God save the King’ and ‘Long live the King’ must have given the King lots of confidence.
Imagine you are writing a coronation anthem for a new monarch, perhaps it is Prince Charles, William or even baby Prince George; how will you convey your message that the new King (or Queen) is going to be brilliant and that this event is the most exciting moment ever?
How will you write your anthem?
When composing a song, the best place to start is with the words. If you are at school, split your class into 4-8 groups and come up with one sentence each about how exciting and joyful this coronation is and how wonderful the new monarch is. If you are at home, come up with words for one verse and one chorus, as if you are writing a poem.
Choose a key signature. Key signatures have lots of different colours and are often associated with different moods and feelings. Handel chose to write Zadok the Priest in D major; this key was thought of as ‘the key of glory’ in Handel’s time and so it is very suitable for a coronation. If you want to write in another key signature, a bright and major is key is preferable.
To write a melody, start with the root of your key (in the case of D major, this is D). The meter of the words will help shape the rhythm. Your music can be as long or short as you want; in Zadok, Handel used only 5 lines of text but he repeated phrases to emphasis the greatness and importance of the words. For example, Handel used the word ‘rejoic’d’ a total of 12 times and the word ‘allelujah’ 19 times.
Once you have come up with your melody, record yourself singing it so that you don’t forget it. If you can write music you can also write it done in notation to keep a record of it.