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A grace for 10 Downing Street

author of text

In 1972 Edward Heath was Prime Minister. Among his extra-political activities, Heath was an enthusiastic and competent amateur musician and during his occupancy of Downing Street he hosted a number of dinner parties for prominent figures in the musical world. One of the more glittering of these occasions was the dinner given on 29th March 1972 in honour of William Walton who celebrated his seventieth birthday that day, and the party was also graced by the presence of the Queen Mother and many other distinguished musicians. Heath and Howells were well acquainted and Howells was asked to write a choral grace to be sung before the meal was served. Robert Armstrong, Heath’s private secretary (later to become Cabinet Secretary) wrote the words. With a slight amendment to the words (‘May William Walton happy be, / In health and wealth and harmony.’ became ‘May those we welcome happy be, / In pastime with good company.’) the grace was sung at most of the subsequent dinners that Heath gave, and the piece was published with Edward Heath’s permission to mark Howells’ centenary in 1992. At the words ‘God save the Queen, preserve our host’, attentive listeners may detect a musical quotation from Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast.

from notes by Paul Andrews © 2010


Howells: Choral Music
SIGCD190Download only


Track 8 on SIGCD190 [2'33] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD190 track 8

Recording date
6 January 2009
Recording venue
St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
David Hinitt
Hyperion usage
  1. Howells: Choral Music (SIGCD190)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: April 2010
    Download only
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