The Chapel Royal

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0120120514

(01/05)

With Donald Macleod. Music from the 1520s by Cornysh, Damett, Fayrfax and King Henry VIII.

For as long as we've had church music itself a Chapel Royal has been serving the musical and spiritual needs of British monarchs. Scarcely a single British composer of note for centuries failed to be associated with it. Byrd, Purcell, Handel, Gibbons, Locke, even Sir Arthur Sullivan of G&S fame all gave their best to adorn state occasions and royal worship, right up to the recent wedding of William and Kate.

This week, Donald Macleod takes five snapshots of the Chapel's itinerant musicians, following their fortunes as they navigate a perilous route from monarch to monarch. Often their careers prosper, with grand masques for Queen Elizabeth I and battlefield triumphs under Henry V. But there are periods of near collapse too, most notably the years of the Civil War which almost finished the Chapel for good. And we hear the written testimonies of many who gave their best years to the choir, most of them thankful for the education it gave them but also some with dark memories of bullying amongst the ranks.

We begin in 1520, and a royal 'G2' long before the G10 was ever invented. Henry VIII is in France for the signing of a royal treaty. No expense is spared as a 'porta-palace' is constructed complete with a fountain gushing with claret. It's an occasion when his chapel musicians must show what they are made of.

0220120515

Episode 02 of 05

Donald Macleod on the music at a royal party that took place at Kenilworth Castle in 1575.

Donald Macleod rejoins the royal musicians in 1575 at Kenilworth Castle for what promises to be a three-week knees-up, a party so lavish that every partygoer will remember it like the Woodstock of his day. And despite their more heavenly inclinations, the singers prove remarkably adept at turning their skills to dramatic ends, not least the Master himself who lands a role as 'deviser' of musical entertainments.

0320120516

Episode 03 of 05

Donald Macleod focuses on a period in 1623, and the building of a new Catholic chapel.

Donald Macleod rejoins the royal musicians in 1623 when an impending royal liaison sees the building of a Catholic chapel within metres of their main base. There's also a dose of intrigue in the ranks, with news of an assault within the chapel and the departure of a talented musician in royal disgrace.

0420120517

Episode x04 of 5

Donald Macleod charts the fortunes of a new master to the royal musicians.

It's 1674, and as the foundations are laid for the new St Paul's Cathedral a major signing is appointed as Master of the royal musicians. Donald Macleod follows the new incumbent's fortunes, including the performance of a new work at the cathedral's opening ceremony.

Episode 5 of 05

05 LAST20120518

Episode x05 of 5

Donald Macleod introduces music composed for the coronation of King George II.

It should have been the pinnacle of Maurice Greene's career, but when the new Master of the chapel children offers his composition services for the coronation of George II he finds that the king has other ideas. Donald Macleod finds out how a naturalised German muscled in on the ceremonial action and also traces the fortunes of the chapel musicians through to the present day.

Episode 5 of 05