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Arthur Bliss

Publisher: Novello & Co

Ceremonial Prelude (1965)
Work Notes
written for 900th anniversary of Westminster Abbey as processional music for HM the Queen.
Novello & Co Ltd
Works for Band/Wind/Brass Ensemble
Year Composed
6 Minutes

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Programme Note
Arthur Bliss Ceremonial Prelude (1965)
Ceremonial Prelude was composed for a special service in 1956 to mark the 900th anniversary of the founding of Westminster Abbey. The piece, with Bliss himself conducting the (then) New Philharmonia Orchestra brass section and organist Simon Preston, was designed “to accompany the Queen from her entry in procession from the Great West Door to the Chapel of St Edward where she was to place upon the altar of the shrine her tribute of red roses, and thence to her Stall in Quire”; a prayer by the Dean of Westminster was spoken over the closing section. Afterwards, Bliss noted approvingly that “the timing and order of these great ceremonies at the Abbey are always perfectly carried out, and the pageantry was suitably impressive”.

The same may be said of Bliss’s own contribution, a perfect marriage of ceremonial statement, pure musical thought and perfect timing, which never overplays its hand. Scoring is for a normal orchestral brass section plus timpani and one sparingly-used but important tubular bell, and organ. Like Elgar, Bliss does not favour block scoring, here or anywhere else, but organises part-writing with subtle mastery as snatches of fanfare overlay a continuously unfolding statement to produce an integrated sound tapestry of solemnity short through with moments of brilliance.

© 2007 Giles Easterbrook

  • Ensemble
    The Denver Brass
    Lowell Graham
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