Let the people praise Thee, O God

Charles and Dianas wedding ceremony in 1981 inside St Pauls Cathedral

Dr Barry Rose OBE was Master of the Choir at St. Paul’s Cathedral during the royal wedding in 1981, in this blog he reflects upon that special time.

For a new anthem at his wedding in St. Paul’s Cathedral in July 1981, the Prince of Wales turned to the distinguished Welsh composer William Mathias.

The result was the now famous Let the people praise Thee, O God, the text being the psalm appointed for the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer.

In a stroke of genius, the composer begins his setting with verse 3 of the psalm – whereas most, if not all, composers would have started with verse 1. But verse 3 and verse 7 are a sort of repeated refrain in the words, hence the title of the anthem – it is not until half-way through that the trebles alone introduce the words of verse 1, God be merciful unto us and bless us.

As Master of the Choir at St. Paul’s Cathedral, it was my job to teach it to the choir and conduct it at the Service (broadcast and televised all over the world, there’s a well-documented moment where, in a moment of over-enthusiasm, I managed to dislodge one of the lampshades on the choir stalls!).

My memories, and the advice I still give to those who perform it, is that you need amazing vocal stamina as well as the ability of ‘float’ your voice at the more tender moments. The organ part is both exciting and exacting, and with the fine organ and superb choirs at Truro Cathedral, I’ve no doubt that their performance in their forthcoming concert is going to be one to remember. Don’t miss it!

Let the people praise Thee, O God will be performed by Truro Cathedral Choir at their summer concert on Saturday 22nd June at 5.00pm. Visit our What's On section to find out more.