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Royal wedding music shows off Britain's classical greats

By Susannah Palk for CNN
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Royal wedding music preview
  • Music by great British composers including Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten have been chosen
  • The selection is both "ceremonial" but also "touching and delicate" according to Martyn Brabbins
  • Three new pieces of music have been commissioned specially for the ceremony

London, England (CNN) -- When Kate Middleton walks up the aisle to wed her prince tomorrow, it will be to the soaring music of "I was glad," composed by Sir Charles Hubert Hasting Parry.

A suitably regal choice, the choral masterpiece is a traditional coronation anthem for British monarchs.

The service will also feature music by some of Britain's greatest composers, with pieces by Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton and Benjamin Britten among the selection.

"The 20th century has been a golden age for British music and it's great that the couple have chosen such a rich and varied diet of great British music," said British conductor Martyn Brabbins.

"These composers have all got a strong track record of being represented on royal occasions, but these pieces are also very, very touching and beautiful," he continued.

"It's nice to see that the couple have not just chosen loud, typically ceremonial music. They've chosen some very touching and delicate pieces of music," he added.

The couple have chosen such a rich and varied diet of great British music.
--British conductor Martyn Brabbins.

Before the ceremony begins, a selection of organ pieces will be played, as well as seven orchestral scores chosen by the couple.

Three of these -- "Farewell to Stromness," "Touch Her Soft Lips and Part," and "Romance for String Orchestra Op.11" -- were also played at the low-key church blessing for the marriage of Prince William's father and step-mother in 2005.

Three commissioned pieces will also be played at the ceremony.

As a wedding present to the couple, Westminster Abbey commissioned a choral anthem from British composer John Rutter, to be sung by both the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal Choir.

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"It's very gratifying to see two living composers, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Master of the Queen's Music and John Rutter, who is a very seasoned and highly respected writer of choral music, are both also represented in the choice of music," said Brabbins

A new "motet" --a piece of choral music sung in Latin -- has also been composed by Welsh musician Paul Mealor. Mealor wrote the piece "Ubi caritas" in his studio, situated on the Welsh island of Anglesey, where Prince William and Kate currently live.

The third new piece of music will be the fanfare "Valiant and Brave," by RAF Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs. The piece will be trumpeted just after the couple sign the wedding register.

As for hymns, the pair has chosen three of their "favorites," most notably the patriotic "Jerusalem," also composed by Sir Hasting Parry and better known as something of an anthem for English rugby supporters.

And of course, for that all-important walk back down the aisle as a married couple, Kate and William have chosen the impressive "Crown Imperial" by William Walton.

"Inevitably at these occasions it's pomp magnified," said Brabbins. "But there's also a sense that this is also an intimate occasion for two young people who are beginning a journey of married life together."

A full order of service for the wedding, including details of the procession, music and readings as well as a personal message from the couple and a photo taken by Mario Testino, can now be downloaded from the official royal wedding website.

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