Share the Queen’s story, share the gospel
Elizabeth II had a living, whole-life faith. Her trust in Jesus informed everything she did – shaping her vision for her role and the country, and forming the...
Following the release of ‘Tears and Celebration’, the poignant hymn marking the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, we spoke to renowned singer Katherine Jenkins about why she got involved in the project – and why she finds the song so powerful.
What did you find special about ‘Tears and Celebration’, and why were you keen to record it?
Katherine Jenkins: I was introduced to the song through Songs of Praise. They wanted to plan a beautiful programme that honoured Her Majesty’s life, and they asked if I’d be willing to sing this specially written hymn by Andy Flannagan. It’s set to the tune of one of Her Majesty’s favourite hymns, ‘Here is Love Vast as the Ocean’, with newly written words that celebrate her life and help people process their feelings of grief at the loss of someone who was so important to so many.
I thought it was a lovely piece, and a chance to do something positive even amidst this tragedy. I recorded it first for that particular Songs of Praise episode, but I also really felt that I wanted to take it further, so it could be heard around the UK and the Commonwealth. So we also recorded a version for the official music video, which has had a great response.
How do you hope the song will help people through this time?
KJ: Music is so vital in getting us through difficult times – having grown up in church, I think that hymns are amazing at bringing people together and helping us process emotion. I lost my own father at a young age, so I know what it is to experience grief and turn to music in that time. I strongly believe that music is a great way of dealing with loss.
I wanted to help people come together in their churches and sing something that beautifully conveys Her Majesty’s life and reign, and at the same time, acknowledge how important her faith was to her. As I sang it, I wanted it to feel uplifting, but also reflective. When you know the tune so well from singing it over the years, you can really focus on the words and get deep into the core of what’s being said, and why that message is so special.
Are there any particular lines that stand out to you?
KJ: It’s so well written – there are lots of really beautiful lines in there. But there is one in particular that’s a bit of an earworm to me. It took me a week to stop singing it over and over again! ‘As he takes her to his promise of an audience with the King’ – which is such beautiful imagery, such a comforting hope in the face of loss.
The song goes on to say ‘we remember all she gave us, wreaths of gratitude we bring’. Regardless of your thoughts on the monarchy, you can’t deny the fact of her amazing service and dedication, up until the last day of her life. The song captures that enormous sense of gratitude we feel.
Where were you when you heard the Queen had died, and how did you feel?
KJ: I’d just got back to London after singing in Asia. There were a lot of photos published that day of the rainbow over Windsor, and I saw it on the way home from the airport. It was such a ‘takes-your-breath-away’ moment. When I saw the rainbow break through the rain, it felt really powerful – rainbows convey reassurance, and in a similar way, the Queen too had a way of making people feel like it would be OK even in the darkest of times.
Within a few minutes of getting home, I saw the news announced on the BBC. And it really hit me that this was going to be a really difficult moment for the UK as we all realised what we’d lost, and it did bring me to tears.
I grew up in a home that was very keen on the Royal Family, and the Queen had always been a huge influence on me. As a result of all that, singing the song after she died felt very different from having read the lyrics in advance. It was much more emotional, and there were a few times I had to stop and calm my voice as I was on the verge of tears.
You met the Queen on many occasions and have sung the national anthem countless times. What was it about the Queen that made her so special? Why do you think she was such a great example of servant leadership?
KJ: The best way I can answer that question is to share a personal memory of Her Majesty. I remember on one occasion, we were asked if she could be involved in a Songs of Praise episode that would mark the centenary of the Scripture Union. We were so excited that she’d be involved – we knew she liked to watch the show, and it was a huge honour.
She came to a recording in Islington, and although I knew she had a faith, there was something about her presence there that made it clear that it really was at the core of everything in her life. That sense of service and duty that everyone notices came from that source – those are the values of her faith, and she really did live them out in all of her life.
The Queen often talked about her Christian faith in her Christmas speeches. How do you think the Queen’s faith impacted the way she lived her life day to day?
KJ: I’m in awe of the way she was able to be a mediator and an inclusive, thoughtful person even in her position of power. She always made space for others and everything she did was for the benefit of other people rather than her own grandeur, even down to the colours she wore and how her outfits were put together. That humility isn’t accidental – it comes of truly living out her faith day by day, in the little details as well as the big decisions.