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Queen Alexandra's Memorial Ode is an ode "So many true Princesses who have gone" written by John Masefield and set to music for choir and orchestra by Sir Edward Elgar for the occasion of the unveiling of Sir Alfred Gilbert's memorial to Queen Alexandra on 8 June 1932, at Marlborough Housemarker in London.

History

It was Masefield's first commission as Poet Laureate, and Elgar, as Master of the King's Musick, was requested to set the verses in mid-May 1932, shortly before his seventy-fifth birthday, Elgar originally set the poem to an orchestral accompaniment, but due to a change of plan it was to be played by a band, with the accompaniment hurredly re-arranged for Military Band by Captain Andrew Harris of the Welsh Guards.

Outside Marlborough House, at the beginning of the ceremony of unveiling by the King, Elgar, wearing magnificent robes, conducted the chorister children of the Chapels Royal, the choir of Westminster Abbeymarker, and the band of the Guards in a performance of the Ode.

The orchestra and band parts have unfortunately since been lost. The only manuscript of the work is in the Library of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castlemarker: a vocal score handwritten by the composer, which includes indications of the orchestral instrumentation.

The music

The work starts with a short fanfare-like figure, followed by a lengthy prelude by the orchestra (or band) before the choir enters, unaccompanied, with the words "So many true Princesses who have gone / Over the seas ... ". The effect of the whole is of appropriate simplicity and wistfulness, and seems to ask for delicacy of instrumentation.

There are four verses of four lines, and the performing time is about six minutes.

Revival and recordings

  • Choir and piano: So many true princesses who have gone (Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode) and other music by Elgar, performed by Barry Collett (piano) and Tudor Choir. On CD - The Unknown Elgar - Pearl SHECD9635
  • Choir and orchestra: Queen Alexandra's Memorial Ode arranged by John Morrison for choir and small orchestra, performed by Bristol Universitymarker Musical Society, at St. George's Church Concert Hall, Bristol in 2002.
  • Choir and orchestra: So Many True Princesses included with other revivals by Anthony Payne of Elgar's music (Third Symphony, 6th Pomp and Circumstance March). Adrian Partington Singers, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, cond. Richard Hickox. On CHANDOS CHSA5057
  • Choir and organ: Westminster Abbey Choir, conducted by James O'Donnell with Robert Quinney (organ) includes Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode (ed. Witt and Quinney) and other music by Elgar. On HYPERION CDA67593


References



Notes

  1. Queen Alexandra had died over six years before the unveiling of the memorial. The date chosen, 8 June 1932, was the 21st anniversary of Alexandra Rose Day
  2. Marlborough House is now the Commonwealth Institute. The Memorial, a Grade I Listed building, by Sir Alfred Gilbert, is located at Marlborough Gate
  3. Moore, Edward Elgar, a Creative Life, p.798,
  4. Maine, Edward Elgar: His Life and Works: Works, p. 253
  5. Geoffrey Hodgkins of the Elgar Society relates that amongst them was a boy called David Willcocks, later Sir David
  6. "Alexandra the Rose Queen" The Times, 9 June 1932 p. 13 col. F
  7. The Daily Telegraph, 9 June 1932
  8. There is an prelude of about a minute in length before the choir starts to sing
  9. This orchestration is for one flute, one oboe, two each of clarinets, bassoons and horns, and the normal orchestral strings



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