Christine Webber

I’m writing this almost a week after the Coronation of King Charles, but I still feel uplifted by the music I heard during it and in the following day’s concert – particularly all the choirs.

It’s been a huge treat.

And I know from everything I’ve heard friends and family say, and the messages I’ve read on social media, that I’m far from alone in believing that the music was the best part of this massive celebration.

Music is vital to the human spirit. We need it in so many ways and it’s marvellous that we now have a monarch who loves, values, and commissions it. This has been a much-needed shot in the arm for the musicians of this country.

Of course, we all listen to music more than ever before – but often it’s something we do alone, through headphones, and it is therefore frequently a personal rather than collective experience.

But the coronation weekend has been a great reminder of how wonderful it is to listen in a big concert hall, church, or large festival venue and enjoy the energy and spectacle and sound in the company of others. Truly invigorating.

When you think about it, so much of our entertainment is dependent upon music.

These days, people who play video games tell me how crucial it is for gaming – and I seem to remember there was a BBC Prom devoted to compositions of this type last year.

But way back, silent movies, of course, had pianists in the pit who created the drive and atmosphere required to complement the images and make the story complete.  

And we’re all aware how films we love are enhanced by their soundtracks. Time and again, music is the glue that holds together performances that matter to us.    

I heard an interesting radio programme the other day about the composer William Walton, whose work of course featured at the Abbey.

And I learned that Sir Laurence Olivier hugely valued Walton’s musical score to his 1944 film of Henry V and believed that the brilliance of it was what made the movie an enduring success. A classic, in fact.   

Another positive aspect of music is how it breaks down barriers and is a universal language.

I remember an international jazz musician saying how when he travelled and met other performers all round the world, they couldn’t speak each other’s languages but as soon as they started playing together, they felt an instant connection.

Music unites people and changes lives; you have only to think of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra which gave rise to El Sistema, a worldwide music project for young people.

Or Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra bringing together musicians from Palestine, Israel and elsewhere. Music can transform us in a way that politics rarely does. And the coronation weekend has totally reaffirmed for me the power that it has.  

Indeed, I’m hopeful that all this exposure to instruments of all kinds, music from many genres and literally thousands of voices, might make us think about participating more actively ourselves.

Could this be the year when you finally join a choir, or dig out your old clarinet or guitar from the loft and start playing again – perhaps with others, or simply for your family?  

Quite apart from all other considerations, singing and playing instruments are terrific ways of forming new connections in the brain – which is particularly important for those of us past the first flush of youth.  

And, perhaps most importantly of all, it’s vital that we make sure our children and grandchildren are hearing different kinds of music, especially now that so many schools are unable to provide music education.

When most of us were young, even if we didn’t come from musical families, we often developed a lifelong love of music because of the nurture and encouragement from inspiring teachers. Two music mistresses I encountered altered my life for the better, and for ever. Far too many children these days are growing up without that possibility.

 Did you know, for example, that loads of primary schools don’t have a music specialist on their staff, and that music has been virtually squeezed out of the curriculum and the majority of schools in the country no longer have a choir?  I think this is deeply shocking.

If I look back at my own school days, they would have been a very dilute experience had choirs, concerts and musical plays not been part of it. No wonder many individuals working in the arts, wonder where on earth the next generation of singers and orchestral players will come from.

So, as parents and grandparents I think we need to step up to make sure we foster any interest in playing or singing or listening that our young relatives show.

It won’t make up for the lack of music education in schools, but it might help a bit. 

As you may have guessed, I found the coronation choirs, the compositions, the instrumental playing and the outdoor concert really impressive. We have had a musical feast.

I’m sure loads of you, like me, feel profoundly grateful for it.