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April 30, 2011

Vermont-Based Company Was First to Record Musical "Hit" of the Royal Wedding

250brandon-1 When Stephen Sutton of Brandon (pictured) heard a choral cycle by 35-year-old composer Paul Mealor, he liked it -- enough to record it on his classical label, Divine Art. When Kate Middleton heard the work's concert premiere, she apparently liked it, too -- enough to request that Mealor's work, "Now sleeps the crimson petal," be performed at her wedding to Prince William.

So, this past Friday morning, the world heard Mealor's romantic, ethereal, yet distinctly modern piece as part of the wedding service at Westminster Abbey. Today at Brandon Music -- the unique art gallery/CD store/tea room that Sutton owns with his wife, Edna, facing Brandon's golf course -- there was rejoicing, as well as clotted-cream tea.

"Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" is currently no. 7 on Amazon UK's list of top-selling classical song MP3s -- its third wedding-fueled day in the Top 100. That's the version that Divine Art recorded before all the wedding hoopla, performed by the Con Anima Chamber Choir. Its text is a Tennyson poem.

Meanwhile, no. 2 on the Amazon UK list is the official royal-nuptials version of Mealor's tune, released by Decca and performed by the Choir of Westminster. (It's also currently no. 1 in the iTunes top 10 classical songs in the UK, Canada, France and Australia, and no. 2 in the U.S.) That rendition is called "Ubi Caritas," because music set to a secular poem couldn't be used at a Church of England service, says Sutton. So "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" was reset to the words of a familiar hymn.

The Divine Art album featuring Mealor's piece -- Madrigali: Fire and Roses -- won't be released till August. The music of the royal wedding is a closely guarded secret, and Sutton didn't know Mealor's piece would be played until the official announcement Thursday night, he says.

Though it wasn't commissioned for the royal nuptials, Mealor's piece got plenty of notice. Telegraph music critic Michael White called it "the real hit of the wedding music" and went on, "I confidently predict that Mealor will now leap to sudden fame on the back of it." No doubt. Sutton reports that Mealor -- who watched the wedding at home with his mum -- did 67 TV interviews yesterday.

Mealor has a studio on the Island of Anglesey, Wales, where the royal couple will live, and that's how they first came to know him and his work, says Sutton. What did Kate (er, we should probably call her Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, now) like about "Now sleeps the crimson petal"?

Sutton sums up the piece's appeal: "It's very modern; it has lots of dissonance, but it's very romantic, as well."

And for the Suttons, English expats who just relocated their extensive collections of teapots and antique phonographs to Vermont, Mealor's music could be a royal windfall.


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