Church of the Redeemer and St. Boniface Church will come together March 4 for a unique concert celebrating the music of royal weddings and coronations.
No special occasion is complete without the perfect soundtrack — whether that comes in the form of a stellar Spotify playlist or a talented group of live performers.
The choir of Church of the Redeemer thought the same goes for royal coronations and weddings, so why not honor the music that marks these celebrations with a concert of its own?
“As far as I know, this is the first concert of this kind in Sarasota,” says Church of the Redeemer Organist and Choirmaster Ann Stephenson-Moe. “I look forward to having the privilege of bringing it to life.”
Music for Glorious Royal Occasions is a series of two concerts (part of Redeemer’s Great Music Series) on back-to-back weekends that will feature not only the Church of the Redeemer choir but the choir of St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key, making for a unique collaboration between two vocal groups from different houses of worship.
Stephenson-Moe says the idea has been circulating for more than a year, and coincidentally Redeemer put the concert on its calendar before the announcement that Prince Henry of Wales will marry American actress Meghan Markle in May.
“It’s turning out to be very timely,” she says. “We tried to do it last year but ran out of time.”
Stephenson-Moe and St. Boniface Organist and Choirmaster James Guyer decided to focus the concert on coronation and wedding music, and their selections are from as early as 1727 and as recent as the 2011 marriage of Prince William, duke of Cambridge and Kate Middleton.
The concert starts chronologically, and the first piece is the coronation anthem for King George II, “Zadok the Priest” by George Frideric Handel.
This piece has a humorous backstory, Stephenson-Moe says, because during the coronation in 1727 the choir got confused and sang the anthem in the wrong place, causing the whole coronation to come to a standstill. She’s thankful this performance of the piece won’t require the vocalists to be under quite so much pressure.
Next, the choir will sing Hubert Parry’s “I Was Glad When They Said unto Me, Op. 51 ‘Psalm 122,’” which she says is traditionally used in the coronation of British monarchs.
Following that piece, the choirs will move in a more modern direction with “Ubi caritas,” a motet by Paul Mealor composed as one of the multiple anthems for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The concert will also include pieces by Simon Johnson, organist and assistant director of music at St. Paul’s Cathedral and acclaimed British composer Benjamin Britten, along with some French nonchoral pieces to add variety. These pieces will be performed by brass, organ, timpani and percussion players assembled from the Sarasota Opera and Sarasota Orchestra.
Stephenson-Moe says the 85-some voices that make up the double choir haven’t rehearsed together yet, but both choirmasters have sent a few of their individual singers to rehearse with the other choir. The first full rehearsal they had together was March 3, the day before the first concert.
The choirmaster says she’s excited to introduce royal music to Sarasota audiences in two churches that are acoustically equipped for this type of music — and have the talented choirs to perform it. But at its core, this concert is about establishing relationships over faith.
“It’s a great opportunity for both churches to do something in the spirit of our Episcopal roots,” she says. “I think that you forge new friendships and new relationships and a new closeness and solidarity between groups.”