Every detail of today’s funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is likely to be pored over in the days ahead. But one aspect which should get particular attention is the musical contribution. For although the choir at the service in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, was reduced to only four singers due to Covid restrictions, their singing was a powerful and important testament to this country’s musical and specifically choral tradition. It was also a reminder of how at times of deep emotion music can provide a solace that words and other mediums of expression cannot.
The settings of the Funeral Sentences by William Croft have been heard at state funerals, among others, for three centuries. At the funerals of Baroness Thatcher and Princess Diana they were sung, respectively, by the choirs of St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in procession.