King Charles III heaped royal praise on Andrew Lloyd Webber when he first heard the composer play a piano version of the coronation anthem, telling the peer that the music gave him “goosebumps and tears.”
The anthem, titled Make A Joyful Noise, was just performed in all its glory during today’s Coronation service at Westminster Abbey, as it was broadcasted and streamed to millions around the world.
Lloyd Webber revealed the King’s thoughts to us after he’d given a hush-hush preview of the anthem’s recording. He added he felt “humbled and moved” by the monarch’s “kind words.”
The musical theatre giant was specially commissioned to compose the anthem for their majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. “I mean, he could have said that he hated it and I would have had to have started it all over again,” Lloyd Webber joked.
There was “some evidence” of a “tear in the King’s eye” as he played Make A Joyful Noise on the piano. Let’s say it made an impact on the King,” said Lloyd Webber who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1992 and ennobled as Lord Lloyd Webber five years later.
“In all honesty,” said Lloyd Webber, “the King said the music gave him goosebumps and tears.”
He explained how he met with the King months ago to discuss options for the historic anthem. “We chatted away and we talked about the Book of Solomon and I had an idea of using Psalm 98, the one that goes ‘Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord, the King,’ because it has a message that’s highly appropriate.”
“Once I found the text it was simple, really. It was an easy one. Sometimes they take days and this one didn’t. I got lucky and composed it in maybe a day,” he said.
“I had a slight advantage having composed an anthem or two before and my father wrote some choral pieces,” he added, referring to his father William Lloyd Webber, a classical and modern music composer and organist.
The court composer admitted that he was “incredibly nervous” when it came time to perform it in the King’s presence. “I sat down at the piano and tried to sing it,” he laughed. “That’s when I thought I’d blown it but I played him that early score and got this amazing reaction. There I was, auditioning, really, for the sovereign,” he told Deadline at a small, highly privileged gathering in his private office adjoining the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which is owned by his LW Theatres organisation.
It’s currently housing a production of the Disney musical Frozen, starring Samantha Barks, Emily Lane, Djavan van de Fliert, Craig Gallivan and Oliver Ormson. The show is directed by Michael Grandage with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
After coming up with his coronation score, Lloyd Webber set about orchestrating it to include short opening and closing fanfare played by the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Airforce. “They’re having to erect a special platform at Westminster Abbey to fit them all in,” he said. “It’s going to be a bit of a squeeze, I fear.”
The performance at Westminster Abbey included the Coronation orchestra, whose membership comprises some of the world’s top musicians drawn from eight leading orchestras (Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Regina Symphony Orchestra of Saskatchewan,Canada, English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Opera House Orchestra and Welsh National Opera Orchestra), plus the Royal Airforce trumpeters, the choir of Westminster Abbey and the Abbey organ.
“I’m thrilled,” said Lloyd Webber. “I worry though, will it be noisy enough?”
His wife Madeleine, Baroness Lloyd Webber, assured him that he had nothing to worry about. After all, she said, “’They have played music in the Abbey before, you know.’”
Those gathered in the music master’s private rooms pleaded to hear Make A Joyful Noise again. Lloyd Webber obliged and switched on the the tape one more time.
“You can’t say that you’ve heard it until they’ve performed it at Westminster Abbey,” he warned. “Otherwise I’ll end up in the Tower of London.”
Lloyd Webber’s musicals include Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard, Jesus Christ Superstar, Starlight Express and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The pre-recorded studio version of the Make a Joyful Noise is available through Decca Records now. The anthem will also be available on Decca’s official album of today’s service, The Official Recording of the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III & Queen Camilla, marking the first time a recording of a coronation ceremony will be available globally to stream and download on the day of the service.