RIP Your Royal Highness

The Nation was privileged to join Her Majesty and members of the Royal Family to say farewell to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He had planned his funeral immaculately and it was executed so beautifully by the team at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Cathedrals up and down the land have held Services of Remembrance and below we hear from Richard Murray, Headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford.

With just hours’ notice, many of the choristers came back from their well-earned holiday following Holy Week to sing at the special thanksgiving evensong conducted by the Sub Dean of Christ Church, the Revd Richard Peers. One family of three choristers made the journey from Newport in Wales in order to attend and two former choristers, brothers of those presently singing in the choir, decided to attend as well.

‘A psalm of comfort and consolation’

The Cathedral’s Director of Music, Professor Steven Grahl, put together the service in a very short time. “We would normally prepare a service over the course of a number of days but we had to put it together in just over an hour, ” said Professor Grahl, who chose music to reflect the solemn nature of the occasion, including a setting of Psalm 23, “a psalm of comfort and consolation”, and an anthem by the great seventeenth century English composer Henry Purcell, “Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our hearts”, which was sung at the funeral of Queen Mary and at that of the composer himself soon afterwards.

As a mark of respect, Professor Grahl and the choristers wore black armbands for the service. The flag on Christ Church’s Tom Tower was flying at half-mast and Great Tom, the bell in Tom Tower, rang half-muffled to mark the occasion.

The live-streamed service: was attended by a number of local dignitaries, including the new High Sherriff of Oxford, Imam Monawar Hussain, and the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft.  At the end of the service the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson, OBE, Her Majesty The Queen’s official representative in the County, personally thanked the choristers afterwards for the readiness to sing at such short notice.

‘He tried to make the world a better place…’

Two of the choristers, Luca, 13, and Will, 10, were interviewed for Radio Oxford about the experience. “It was an honour that we could sing for the country,” said Will. Luca said he had felt nervous to be singing on such a special day. “It was a really special occasion for all of the choristers,” he said, adding that part of their nerves were down to the fact that they only had an hour to prepare for the service. “I was really worried that the music wouldn’t work but I think it ended up really well,” he said. Asked what the Duke meant to them, Will said that the Duke “had tried to make the world a better place for everyone” while Luca felt he had “come down to a more human level with everybody”.

Richard adds: “As a Royal Foundation and as the only cathedral in England to have Her Majesty The Queen as its Visitor, it was fitting that a service should be held here and I was delighted that so many of the choristers were able to return at such short notice. I want to thank both the boys and their parents for making this possible. It was also lovely to see two former choristers volunteering to take part too. It was an occasion that none of them will forget. Our thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family at this time.”