The Tree of Peace, Windsor


I'm not going to be able to sum up the experience of the Queen's funeral in a single post. I'll simply note my admiration that Westminster Abbey's James O'Donnell was able to include two entirely new pieces of music, by myself and James McMillan, on such an occasion. And for the choir to sing them with such assurance that the music sounded like it had always been sung in such ceremonies, and firmly belonged there.


However, I would like to say a few words about my short organ piece The Tree of Peace which was played later the same day, just before the start of the Queen's Committal Service in St George's Chapel Windsor. It touches me to recall that this was a recent (2016) commission by the parishioners of St Andrew's Church, West Tarring, Sussex in memory of their late organist Richard Axtell ('talented and much-loved', it says in the dedication). I can well remember making my way to the world premiere, through the south coast suburbs near Worthing, and having a wonderful evening listening to Chichester Cathedral's Charles Harrison on the organ. Audience members were handed a large glass of red wine in hand on entering the church, definitely not 'communion wine', and the event was surveyed by a large cardboard cutout of Richard himself. A particularly enjoyable first performance experience.


A fair number of performances have followed, more than usual for a new, personally commissioned piece. But we could have hardly have dreamed that, within a few years, this music would be played during a supremely significant national occasion. (And in fact we learned shortly afterwards that it had also been included in the US Government's official service of commemoration in Washington National Cathedral, in the presence of the British Ambassador and US Vice President Kamala Harris.) So, may I point out once more, what a civic and sometimes historical act it can be to commission new music, at whatever level? Thank you again, good people of West Tarring.



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JUDITH WEIR

Composer