The Queen's Coronation Songs of Praise


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The Queen's Coronation

Bill Turnbull explores the significant role of Westminster Abbey during HM the Queen's 60-year reign; the Bishop of London reflects on her lifetime of faith.


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Today, we're remembering an historic day, 60 years ago,

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when a young Princess Elizabeth arrived at Westminster Abbey.

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As she walks down the aisle, the eyes of the world were upon her

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as people crowded round television sets to watch the service.

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Welcome to a very special edition of Songs Of Praise as we join the celebrations

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to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen,

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a reign of six decades and a lifetime of Christian faith.

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This week, I'll be talking to the Bishop of London about Her Majesty's strong faith,

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we catch up with a chorister who sang a solo at the historic service in Westminster Abbey,

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and there is spectacular Coronation music from Canterbury Cathedral.

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When the Queen was crowned, six decades ago,

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she became not only the Head of State of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms,

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but also Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

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The ancient and magnificent building that is the mother church

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of Anglicans worldwide is Canterbury Cathedral.

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And tucked away in a quiet corner of the building

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is the cathedral's own tribute to the Queen's Coronation.

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The cathedral's had a high-profile this year

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with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,

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enthroned here in March.

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Let us greet our newly installed Archbishop with great gladness.

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APPLAUSE

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In Her Majesty's lifetime, there have been ten Archbishops of Canterbury,

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and amazingly, she has now reigned over seven of them.

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The cathedral's almost like two separate churches

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with the nave here at one end and the quire -

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Q-U-I-R-E - through that screen to the east.

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And it's in the quire that we're having our musical celebration.

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This is St Augustine's chair.

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He was the first ever Archbishop of Canterbury some 14 centuries ago.

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Today, it's surrounded by Songs Of Praise singers

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from churches, choirs and schools around Canterbury.

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In what we believe to be a first for Songs Of Praise,

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they're going to sing two of the same spine-tingling pieces of music

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that Her Majesty would have heard during her Coronation 60 years ago,

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beginning with Hubert Parry's I Was Glad.

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The Queen is no stranger to Canterbury Cathedral.

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Her earliest recorded visit was with her parents

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as a young Princess Elizabeth in 1946.

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Cressida, thank you very much for letting us into the library here.

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You've got some wonderful memories of the Queen's earlier visits to Canterbury?

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Yes, indeed. Starting in 1946, which was her first visit to Canterbury.

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-What was that for?

-That was for the service of thanksgiving

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for the preservation of the cathedral after World War II.

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In the cathedral itself, there is a painting commemorating the occasion as well.

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-Tell us about that.

-It shows the royal party leaving the quire area.

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It's symbolic in a way, because you see, standing in the spotlight,

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if you like, are the King and Queen.

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And just behind them is the Princess Elizabeth.

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Yes, she's walking very much behind her parents.

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Just a few years later though, she was to become Queen herself.

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And to mark that occasion, the cathedral has its own window.

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Yes, we have a Coronation window which was unveiled in 1954

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which commemorates the Queen's Coronation,

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but also the Coronation of her father, King George VI.

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Why is it important for the cathedral here in Canterbury to have a royal connection?

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The Queen is the head of the Church of England

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and Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England.

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So it's very important that there is a strong connection with the monarch.

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The next major visit was the visit for the Royal Maundy in 1965.

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It is a very ancient tradition,

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but Queen Elizabeth has really made it her own.

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She has attached great importance to the Royal Maundy during her reign.

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The monarch travels throughout the country,

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very much making contact with the people.

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And she distributes the Maundy money which is an award.

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-And the next one at Canterbury was when?

-In 2002.

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And you got a gift of your own that day, didn't you?

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Well, not quite a gift!

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At the end of the service, there was, on the table, left,

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one of the Maundy posies. It didn't appear to have an owner.

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I made a few enquiries and then it did seem entirely appropriate to take it home.

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There are a number of members of the party at Royal Maundy who hold nosegays,

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I'm not sure whose it was.

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-Not the Queen's?

-Certainly not the Queen's!

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The Dean and Chapter intends to mark the recent Jubilee

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with two statues for the west front of the cathedral.

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So, a statue of the Queen and of Prince Philip.

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At which time, there will presumably be another service of dedication?

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-I'm very sure there will, yes.

-And another royal visit?

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That, I think, is yet to be confirmed.

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-But it would be lovely to have them here?

-It would. Very definitely.

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The Bishop of London is not only responsible for the Anglican churches in the capital city,

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but also the royal chapels.

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You'll know the royal family well

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from your work as Dean of the Chapels Royal.

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And, presumably,

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the Queen is someone who is of deep spiritual faith.

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I think that's become very publicly clear,

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hasn't it, from her Christmas broadcasts?

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Because they have been much more explicitly Christian,

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and she has always had a very firm and deep faith.

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I think that that actually corresponds

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with a very great turn in the tide.

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Because I remember...

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Actually it was a director-general of the BBC

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giving a lecture not so long ago, and saying that of course,

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25 years ago, 30 years ago,

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when the Queen was already 30 years on the throne,

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everybody was convinced that the story of God would have only one ending.

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And it would be relegation to the leisure sector.

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It would be the harmless hobby of fairly eccentric people.

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Well, nobody is saying that now.

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So, the Queen has united all these periods, and very appropriately,

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I think, for the present, for this contemporary age,

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she is being much more explicit about her own faith.

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60 years on, do you think, as a nation,

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we treasure the concept of that Coronation as much as we should?

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One of the most extraordinary things about monarchy in this country,

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again and again,

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the actual event is hugely uniting.

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I think that was true of the Coronation,

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although at that time, Britain was emerging from austerity.

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I remember, I think I still had my own ration card.

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In 1953, we still had ration cards then.

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And it had been a rather drab, austere world as we recovered.

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There were bomb sites everywhere in London.

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So, I think the Coronation had a particular role there.

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The reaction to the Queen when she goes on her visits

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has always been beyond what people might expect.

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And the number of people who talk about the lightest word,

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which is why, of course, the Queen has to be very careful.

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She knows very well. Because what she says is remembered for a lifetime.

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-It's a big responsibility.

-It's a huge responsibility

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and, I think, unless you have gone through every day being engaged,

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being interested, reaching out to people who may be in awe,

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looks quite easy, but actually, it is an enormous responsibility.

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And one which, I think,

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if you're thinking about the PR profession, public relations.

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They're all experts on how you keep yourself in the public eye for about 10 years.

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Because after 10 years in the public eye, people are very tired of you.

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The Queen, seems to me, is perhaps the only expert

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on how you keep yourself in the public eye for more than 80 years,

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and people want more.

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The choir of Westminster Abbey played an important role in the Coronation service.

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Not from the usual choir stalls here, but up there,

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where they had a bird's-eye view of the unforgettable scene below.

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We were in a specially created sort of box, if you like.

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And we were on the front row. We always liked to be in the front row.

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So we had as good a view as was possible to have.

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Albeit, clearly, you had to crane towards your right to really see

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what was going on when Her Majesty was at the high altar,

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because that wasn't readily in our vision.

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And we also had to watch the beat from Dr McKie

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to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to do.

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But, at every opportunity, we were able to sort of lean around

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and check it out, which was great.

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And your memories in living colour.

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Most of us just remember this rather wide shot

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in grainy black-and-white, not great sound.

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But, you, of course, had a box seat.

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My overriding memory really is...

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It's perhaps a strange word to use, but it was the "glamour" of it.

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It was the most extraordinary feeling of...

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light and gold and ermine

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and purple and red and diamonds and what have you.

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An extraordinary feeling, a bit like a major Hollywood movie in a way.

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That was the overriding feeling that I got.

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And there were certain moments which were quite extraordinary.

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I remember when the actual crown was placed on Her Majesty's head,

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it seemed to be very, very slow before it actually got there.

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And the yell from the boys of Westminster School shouting, "Vivat, Vivat, Regina!"

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# Vivat, Regina Elizabetha!

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# Vivat! #

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I get goosebumps thinking about it.

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I mean, that is a huge thrill, when you realise

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that actually, you were in the presence of history.

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You must have been stuck up there for some time.

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I think it was about six hours.

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And part of the fun for us was for the first time,

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we were allowed to bring a packed lunch.

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Were you eating during the service?!

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Yes, absolutely. That was a no-go area, as you can imagine.

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That was not part of the discipline.

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So, to be able to do that legitimately,

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with permission, was great.

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I was personally very lucky because William McKie, Dr McKie,

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chose three boys to sing a solo in unison

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for a specially commissioned anthem called O Taste And See.

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It was a huge honour, of course.

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And I think Dr McKie hedged his bets because I think the event

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was so huge that he thought, if one of us got nervous,

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then at least the other two would come in.

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I was the boy who got nervous.

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SOLO CHOIR: "O Taste And See"

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-I did come in slightly later, but full throttle once I got there.

-I'm sure nobody noticed!

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It was a magnificent ceremony all the way through,

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but some moments would have stood out more than others.

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For instance, when the Queen first entered the Abbey.

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I Was glad... I mean, one of the most fantastic, exhilarating,

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powerful pieces of music one would ever have the good fortune to sing.

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And I loved that. It was great.

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The last rehearsal, which I believe was when Her Majesty came.

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She was wearing the Imperial Crown

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and she processed from the Great West Door to the High Altar.

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And she did ask the Duke of Norfolk to ask Dr McKie, the master of the choristers,

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if we could sing a little quicker because the crown was heavy.

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-I think I didn't make that up.

-Happy days?

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Very happy days indeed, yes.

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I feel a huge sense of pride.

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I'm a great royalist anyway

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and I feel that, having been given this opportunity

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and this God-given gift which I was given,

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to have been a part of this extraordinary ceremony is truly great.

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# The Lord's my shepherd

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# I'll not want

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# He makes me down to lie

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# In pastures green

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# He leadeth me

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# The quiet waters by

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# He leadeth me, He leadeth me

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# The quiet waters by

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# My soul He doth restore again

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# And me to walk doth make

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# Within the paths of blessedness

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# E'en for His own name's sake

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# Within the paths of blessedness

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# E'en for His own name's sake

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# Yea, though I pass thro' shadowed vale

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# Yet will I fear no ill

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# For Thou art with me, and Thy rod

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# And staff me comfort still

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# Thy rod and staff me comfort still

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# Me comfort still

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# Goodness and mercy all my days

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# Will surely follow me

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# And in my Father's heart always

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# My dwelling place shall be

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# And in my Father's heart always

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# My dwelling place shall be. #

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It's time now to hear another sublime piece of choral music

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based on the Old Testament words from the First Book Of Kings.

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It's been sung at every coronation since that of George II.

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And 60 years ago, Her Majesty would have heard this

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at the very moment she became sovereign.

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Our congregation are led by pupils from schools in Canterbury

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in Handel's glorious anthem, Zadok The Priest.

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God of time and eternity,

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we give you thanks and praise that you have blessed this nation

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with Elizabeth, our beloved Queen.

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Grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace.

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As she continues in faithful obedience, to you, her Lord and God,

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and in devoted service to her lands and peoples,

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and those of the Commonwealth.

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Now, and all the days of her life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Amen.

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On Tuesday, the Queen will be back here at Westminster Abbey

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to attend a service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.

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And, of course, we send our very best wishes and congratulations to Her Majesty.

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Our final hymn perhaps sums up the Queen's lifetime

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of Christian faith and dedication - Great Is Thy Faithfulness.

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Next week, Pam Rhodes visits Leeds Central Library

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and introduces a treasury of hymns

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telling stories of every human experience and emotion,

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sung by congregations from all over the country.

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And there are performances from Willard White

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and Russell Watson.

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Before we go, I'm pleased to announce details of this year's Big Sing

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at The Royal Albert Hall on Sunday, September 8th.

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And as we're going to be singing the UK's top 10 hymns and carols,

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it's going to be a pretty special occasion.

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Here is the phone number for you to purchase tickets.

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The only number to call is...

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Calls cost up to 5p a minute from most landlines

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and an additional connection fee may also apply.

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Calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.

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You'll find the telephone number and more information

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on the Songs Of Praise website...

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The Big Sing is always popular, so you'll have to be quick.

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If you're going to be there, I look forward to seeing you.

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If you can't make it,

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you'll have a front-row seat by staying just where you are.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Bill Turnbull explores the significant roles of Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral during HM the Queen's 60-year reign; the Bishop of London reflects on Her Majesty's lifetime of faith, a solo chorister describes taking part in the big day in 1953 and celebratory music sung in Canterbury Cathedral includes the glorious Coronation anthems I Was Glad and Zadok the Priest.