How Queen's old music teacher composed music at Price Philip's funeral

How the Queen’s old music teacher played a key role alongside Bach: Sir William Harris composed adagio espressivo which was played at Prince Philip’s funeral

  • Sir William Harris was a former director of music at St George’s Chapel
  • Taught music to Princess Elizabeth and sister Margaret at Windsor Castle
  • Two of the other compositions were closely associated with Princess Diana 

A piece of music performed before the funeral service was composed by the Queen’s former music teacher.

Adagio espressivo (Sonata in A minor) was written by Sir William Harris, a former director of music at St George’s Chapel who served as conductor at the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

Sir William taught music to the young Princess Elizabeth and her late sister Margaret at Windsor Castle during the war.

Two of the other compositions were closely associated with Princess Diana. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Rhosymedre featured during her 1997 funeral.

A piece of music performed before Prince Philip’s funeral service was composed by the Queen’s former music teacher

Adagio espressivo (Sonata in A minor) was written by Sir William Harris, a former director of music at St George’s Chapel who served as conductor at the Queen’s coronation in 1953

The same piece was played at the weddings of both Prince William and Prince Harry.

After yesterday’s service, J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor was played – as it was after Princess Diana’s funeral.

Perhaps fittingly, another piece, Salix (The Plymouth Suite), was said by its composer Percy Whitlock to be about ‘a perpetual grouser, yet with much humour,’ whom he knew.

Given the Duke’s distinguished war record, there was a strong military element to the ceremonial music. 

Sir William taught music to the young Princess Elizabeth and her late sister Margaret at Windsor Castle during the war. Pictured: The sisters in 1940

Colour Sergeant Peter Grant – the Pipe Major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland – played a lament of the Flowers of the Forest.

More usually heard during Remembrance Sunday services, it is a traditional folk song commemorating England’s defeat of Scottish king James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

It was followed by Buglers of the Royal Marines sounding The Last Post, which traditionally signalled that all Army sentry stations had been checked and the camp was secure for the night, a rendition of Reveille by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry and Action Stations, a stirring call to arms on naval warships.

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