On Thursday 10th June, The Self-Isolation Choir (SIC) will be truly honoured to present Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with its performance of the late Prince Philip’s favourite hymn, ‘Eternal Father, Strong To Save’, to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.
On 9th April, SIC members were preparing for the online premiere of their recording of Allegri’s Miserere, conducted by Tenebrae Choir Director Nigel Short, when the news broke that Prince Phillip had sadly passed away. As singers and guests gathered for their concert, they discussed their sadness at his death and their deep sympathy for Her Majesty on losing her beloved husband of 73 years.
Nigel announced that the Choir’s performance that evening would be dedicated to the late Prince’s memory, and SIC Founder and Director, Mark Strachan, announced that the Choir’s recording of Miserere would be released as a downloadable single, with all profits going to the Duke of Edinburgh International Award. That was, however, far from the end of this touching story.
The ever-busy SIC had recently worked with highly-acclaimed choral director and conductor Ralph Allwood MBE to record 8 well-loved hymns for its All Things Bright and Virtual project, which also featured Alexander Armstrong, Harry Christophers CBE, Wynne Evans MStJ, Stephen Fry, Katherine Jenkins OBE, Libby Purves OBE, John Rutter CBE and Sir Bryn Terfel, and raised over £12,000 for charity.
Many in the Choir found the hymns had brought them great comfort at a difficult time, and were saddened to learn that the congregation would be unable to sing Prince Philip’s favourite hymn at his funeral due to Coronavirus restrictions. One thoughtful singer, Anne, had the heart-warming idea that SIC could share its support and deep sympathy for Her Majesty by performing the hymn for her, in the hope of bringing her similar solace.
Only a few days later, SIC announced its intention to record ‘Eternal Father, Strong To Save’ in honour of the late Prince and present its performance to Her Majesty The Queen on 10th June, when her husband would have been 100 years old. The project was again to be directed and conducted by the wonderful Ralph Allwood, and would be free and open to absolutely anyone to join. Any profits from donations would again benefit the Duke of Edinburgh International Award.
On 22nd April, SIC appealed for singers from around the world to join the project, in particular those from around the Commonwealth and those who had participated in the ‘DofE’ programme. Then, on 10th May, 1,500 individuals gathered for the first online rehearsal to learn the hymn that had meant so much to Prince Philip.
Ralph’s excellent guidance was supported by the Choir and organist Jonathan Eyre of the Old Royal Naval College Trinity Laban Chapel, where Ralph is the Director of Music. The Prince himself trained at the Old Royal Naval College in 1948. Speaking about the purpose and meaning behind the project, Ralph explains,
So many people identified with the grief felt by Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family, and it was the privileged joy of 1,500 singers to be able to express this by singing Prince Philip’s favourite hymn as a tribute. The hymn has been sung by sailors for a long time for important occasions. Indeed, we sing it every Sunday at the Old Royal Naval College as part of our morning service.
Following two engaging rehearsals with Ralph, the singers were asked to submit their recordings, and in the few short weeks since, SIC’s sound engineers have been busy working to mix over 1,500 voices to produce a truly remarkable and moving rendition of the hymn.
When it is presented to Her Majesty on Thursday, the Choir’s performance will be accompanied by a short video filmed at Buckingham Palace, where Mark Strachan will explain the origins of the Choir, why its singers wished to sing the hymn, and how they learned and recorded the hymn from home. The video also includes a photo montage of those who participated.
Having liaised with The Royal Household’s Private Secretary’s Office, it is the intention that Her Majesty will be presented with a screening of the video on Thursday 10th June, sensitively timed to commemorate the bitter-sweet occasion of her late husband’s birthday. She will also be presented with a heartfelt poem, An Anthem for a Prince, authored by SIC chorister and poet, Alexandra Brooke.
Mark speaks of the Choir’s mood and sense of pride in the lead up to such a momentous occasion:
It is an honour to think that Her Majesty The Queen will watch and hear our version of Eternal Father, Strong To Save on the day that her husband, Prince Philip, would have been 100 years old. I am so grateful to every single one of the 1,500 individuals who took part for making this event something very special for us and, I hope, for The Queen herself.
This is what SIC is all about – uniting people from all over the world through the power and majesty of music. In this way, we are all there with Her Majesty The Queen – apart yet together.
A public screening of the video will also be streamed on SIC’s YouTube channel at 17:00 BST on Thursday 10th June 2021, at: https://youtu.be/w3Tf4cE-iJY.
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