Tallis’ ‘If ye love me’ sung at Windsor Castle is a poignant way to remember the late Duke of Edinburgh

9 April 2021, 20:02

Thomas Tallis ‘If Ye Love Me’, performed by The Queen's Six

By Kyle Macdonald

A moment of musical stillness, as the world joins the Royal Family to mourn Prince Philip, who died on Friday, aged 99.

On a cold evening in 2019, Classic FM stepped into St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle to record one of the UK’s finest choirs, The Queen’s Six.

That night, we filmed a deeply beautiful performance, which feels connected to this moment of reflection, as we give thanks for the life and service of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

The 15th-century chapel holds so much royal history and tradition, both public and private. It is situated within the castle walls, where Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip lived together, and has been the place of both royal weddings and memorials.

It is where The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, a private service for family and friends, will be held, before he is laid to rest in the castle.

Thomas Tallis’ If ye love me is a ‘homophonic motet’, meaning that one syllable is sung to one chord, giving the music and text clarity and simplicity. Upon this, Tallis gives the flow of chords subtle touches of colour and movement, bringing the hymn alive with tenderness, emotion and poignancy.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has died aged 99 >

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died aged 99
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died aged 99. Picture: Donald McKague/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The text, taken from the Gospel of John, is as follows:

If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter,
that he may 'bide with you forever;
E'en the sp'rit of truth.

Listen to how Tallis’ setting delicately emphasises the lines “abide with you forever”, and the words “love” and “truth”.

The piece has a long history and many connections with the Royal Family. Thomas Tallis was a composer who worked closely with Elizabeth I. And in this same chapel in 2018, it was sung at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Prince Philip embodied the traditions and history of the Royal Family. He was steadfast in his support of Her Majesty the Queen, abiding in his duty as her consort, and lovingly dedicated to her and their family.

This piece, full of tradition, simple majesty, peace and tenderness, feels a perfect tribute.