Although many had assumed that the Master of the Queen’s Music, Arnold Bax, would be the director of music for the coronation, it was decided instead to appoint the organist and master of the choristers at the abbey, William McKie, who had been in charge of music at the royal wedding in 1947.
- Tradition required: that Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” and Parry’s “I was glad” were included amongst the anthems. Other choral works included were the 16th century “Rejoice in the Lord alway” and Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace”.
- Newly commissioned works: Another tradition was that new work be commissioned from the leading composers of the day: Ralph Vaughan Williams composed a new motet “O Taste and See”,
William Walton composed a setting for the “Te Deum”,
Canadian composer Healey Willan wrote an anthem “O Lord our Governor”. Four new orchestral pieces were planned; Arthur Bliss composed “Processional”;
William Walton, “Orb and Sceptre”; and Arnold Bax, “Coronation March”.
- Long live The Queen: The traditional Latin shouts of Vivat Regina (long live The Queen), heard during the Coronation service, was incorporated into the anthem ,”I was glad” by Hubert Parry. “Vivat Regina… Vivat Regina Elizabetha”.
- Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D” was played immediately before Bax’s march at the end of the ceremony.
- Innovations: An innovation, at the suggestion of Vaughan Williams, was the inclusion of a hymn in which the congregation could participate. This proved controversial and was not included in the programme until the Queen had been consulted and found to be in favour; Vaughan Williams wrote an elaborate arrangement of the traditional Scottish metrical psalm, “Old 100th”, which included military trumpet fanfares.
- Gordon Jacob wrote a choral arrangement of God Save the Queen, also with trumpet fanfares.