A debut album by Paul Mealor, whose anthem Ubi Caritas was chosen for the Royal Wedding in April, gives an unexpected insight into the origins of what some felt was the finest musical moment of the occasion.
Mealor, who has previously said that the invitation came completely out of the blue after the couple heard a track of his music, now confesses that the song was originally written to Tennyson’s poem, Now sleeps the crimson petal.
However, he adds, after some debate, it was felt that the Tennysons words weren’t appropriate for a religious service, so I suggested resetting them to the sixth-century Christian prayer ‘Ubi caritas’ and this piece was born.
And the nature of the objection?
Now sleeps the crimson petal is an erotic, sensual poem that compares human beauty to that of the rose and lily – the closing of the lily representing the union of two lovers.
Well, you can’t have that at an Abbey wedding, can you?
Listening to Ubi Caritas at the wedding, I was less impressed than many colleagues, finding the music synthetic and rather strenuously ingratiating. Listening to the two versions side by side on Decca’s new recording, I can see why. The music fits perfectly to Crimson Petal, more awkwardly to Ubi Caritas, not unlike some of the cousinly costumes seen on the great occasion by 2.5 billion people around the world.
The recording was made six weeks after the wedding, in St Jude-on-the-Hill church, Hampstead Garden Suburb. The performers on the album are Tenebrae, conducted by Nigel Short, and for one piece (the Stabat Mater) they are joined by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.