Girl choristers make history singing at the coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey
6 May 2023, 13:41
For the first time in history, girl choristers sang alongside the boy choristers of Westminster Abbey for the coronation of a British Monarch.
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Whilst settings of Psalm 122, which ‘I Was Glad’ comes from, have been sung at every coronation since that of King Charles I almost four centuries ago in 1626, this is the first time the work will be sung by girl choristers at a coronation.
Alongside the choir and choristers of Westminster Abbey, 14 young girl singers from across the nation have been asked to join the coronation choir and sing during the historic ceremony taking place on 6th May 2023.
Find out more about the girl choristers singing at the coronation of King Charles III below.
Who is singing at the coronation of King Charles III?
Alongside the choir and choristers of Westminster Abbey, the musicians singing as part of King Charles III’s coronation service include His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, alongside choristers from Methodist College, Belfast, and Truro Cathedral Choir, as well as an octet from the Monteverdi Choir.
The Choir of Westminster Abbey has sung at many coronations over their 700-year history, and earlier this year, seven girl choristers from Methodist College in Belfast and seven from Truro Cathedral Choir in Cornwall were asked to join the choir for the coronation.
Whilst professional female singers did reportedly perform at the 1838 coronation of Queen Victoria, these young singers are the first girl choristers to ever sing at a coronation ceremony.
Seven upper-sixth pupils from Methodist College in Belfast are singing at the ceremony, they are; Emily Wilson, Hannah Harvey, Evie Mills, Sarah Johnston, Maggie Gilmartin, Hannah Gheel and Nia Phelan. They are joined by seven girl choristers from Truro Cathedral in Cornwall.
Introducing to the world our coronation choir featuring:— Choir of Westminster Abbey (@WAbbeyChoir) May 5, 2023
👑 The Choir of His Majesty's Chapel Royal, St James's Palace
👑 Choristers from @TruroCathChoir
👑 Choristers from @MethodyBelfast
👑 An octet from @mco_london@wabbey #Coronation pic.twitter.com/ug5GH6fP02
Ahead of their performance at King Charles III’s coronation, the Director of Music at Methodist College, Ruth McCartney, said, “We feel very honoured to be chosen to participate in this historic occasion.
“To perform in Westminster Abbey at the Coronation is a tremendous opportunity and something our singers will never forget.
“It is an honour to be able to support them throughout this once-in-a-lifetime experience. They will be fine ambassadors for Methody and for Northern Ireland.”
Rachel Vaughan, Head of Choristers at Truro School, also said ahead of their coronation performance, “The girls have been rehearsing at the Abbey for almost two weeks and are incredibly excited to have been given the opportunity to be the first girl choristers to ever sing at a Coronation.
“I will watch them sing with immeasurable pride later this morning.”
#Sing2G7: Truro Cathedral Choristers sing ‘Gee Seven’ by Sir Tim Rice and Peter Hobbs'
Why is it the first time girl choristers are singing at a coronation?
Since 1991, prominent cathedral and church choirs have begun accepting girls into what have historically been all-boys choirs.
With the growth of both all-girl choirs in churches and the introduction of girl voices into previously all-boy ensembles, it was actually reported in 2019 that girl choristers now outnumber boys in English cathedrals.
Truro Cathedral in fact only began accepting girl choristers in 2015, when 20 young female singers aged 13 to 18 joined the music foundation.
The former director of Truro Cathedral Choir, Christopher Gray, who left just before the coronation in 2023, told Cornwall Live at the time of the girl’s original acceptance eight years ago, “The girls will add a new dimension to our cathedral music, and my firm belief is that the boys will continue to thrive and that our community and our worship will be enriched by their talents.”
For those watching the coronation, it is clear the new dimension these young girl singers are adding to this historic ceremony, and hopefully, future Westminster Abbey audiences will have the pleasure of seeing more female faces in the choir stalls in services to come.
A photo our girl choristers in the cloisters at Westminster Abbey on their way to the #Coronation of Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort.— TruroCathedralChoir (@TruroCathChoir) May 6, 2023
We wish them the very best of luck as they take to the world stage in this historic event; we are extremely proud of them! pic.twitter.com/gi1U4o3ZwE
What other musical firsts were heard at the coronation of King Charles III?
As well as hearing girl choristers for the first time, the coronation audience also heard the Welsh language sung at a coronation for the first time in history.
Sir Bryn Terfel sang Paul Mealor’s ‘Coronation Kyrie’ alongside the choir; the first Welsh language work to ever be performed at a coronation. Mealor said of the work, “It is a cry from the deep soul of the hills and valleys of Wales for hope, peace, love and friendship.”
The Ascension Choir also became the first ever Gospel Choir to perform at a coronation. The specially formed ensemble performed the second part of Debbie Wiseman’s piece, ‘Alleluia (O Sing Praises)’.
Wiseman told Classic FM that the King, “very much much wanted a gospel choir included in the service.”
On writing for the ensemble, Classic FM’s composer-in-residence said, “It was an absolute thrill to do so.”