King and Country: How Handel’s Coronation Anthems Outlived the British Monarchy

King and Country: How Handel’s Coronation Anthems Outlived the British Monarchy

Though he never achieved the monumental popularity of Beethoven or Mozart, George Frideric Handel led a charmed existence; his compositions, which provided him with significant financial success, have been consistently performed from his own lifetime through the modern day.

Handel rose to prominence as a composer of operas, in which he successfully blended Italian Baroque style with German choral tradition. As a young composer on the rise, Handel was invited by a patron to leave his homeland of Germany and go to Italy and later to England where he would remain and eventually become a naturalized British subject. Many of his operas have regained popularity due to the Baroque Revival of the 1960s, but at least two of his works have been regularly performed since their composition: Messiah and the Coronation Anthems.

See the Coronation Anthems performed in Carnegie Hall on February 18, 2017!

Coronation Anthems: Then and Now

Handel's Coronation Anthems have been performed in Westminster Abbey for each British coronation since George II's
The massive scale of Westminster Abbey’s architecture directly influenced Handel’s composition.

Many composers have written coronation anthems, but only Handel’s have stood the test of time. Shortly before George I passed away on June 11, 1727, he signed an act naturalizing Handel as a citizen of Great Britain and commissioned him to write coronation anthems for his son George II’s coronation. Uniquely aware of how performers and performance spaces affect the sound of music, Handel wrote the Coronation Anthems to reflect the grandeur of the coronation itself. Each of the four anthems relies on voices moving en masse; they create large musical gestures that are magnified by the acoustics of Westminster Abbey, as opposed to minute details which would have been muffled by them.

After their premiere, the four anthems (Zadok the Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice, and My Heart is Inditing) became a huge popular success. In addition to concerts and festivals, Handel’s Coronation Anthems have been performed at every British Coronation ceremony since George II’s, giving them a cultural significance unmatched by nearly any other choral work.

MidAmerica Productions is pleased to feature three of Handel’s Coronation Anthems (Zadok the Priest, The King Shall Rejoice, and My Heart is Inditing) on the first concert of our upcoming 34th Season. Conductor Scott Youngs will lead a combined choir consisting of the Choristers of All Saints Episcopal Church, of which Mr. Youngs is the music director; the Summit Singers and Academy Chorale of St. Paul Academy and Summit School in Minnesota and the SPA Community Chorale, led by Anne Klus; the University School of Jackson Concert Choir, whose music director is Dian Eddleman, and the Warwick Valley Chorale led by Stanley Curtis in a performance in Carnegie Hall on February 18, 2017. To purchase tickets or to have your group perform with MidAmerica Productions call 212-239-0205 or visit our website.

Read more about this upcoming concert.

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