London Pride (song)
Coward wrote "London Pride" in the spring of 1941, during the Blitz. According to his own account, he was sitting on a seat on a platform in Paddington station, watching Londoners going about their business quite unfazed by the broken glass scattered around from the station's roof damaged by the previous night's bombing: in a moment of patriotic pride, he suddenly recalled an old English folk song which had been apparently appropriated by the Germans for their national anthem, and it occurred to him that he could reclaim the melody in a new song. The song started in his head there and then and was finished in a few days.
The song has six verses. The opening lines, repeated three times within the song, are:
London Pride has been handed down to us,
London Pride is a flower that's free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it forever will be.
The flower mentioned is Saxifraga x urbium, a perennial garden flowering plant historically known as London pride, and which quickly colonised bomb sites. The song was intended to raise Londoners' spirits during the Blitz. It was also circulated after the July 2005 bombings.
Coward acknowledged one of the traditional cries of London ("Won't You Buy My Sweet-Smelling Lavender", also used in the musical Oliver) as the starting-point for the tune, but he also pointed out the similarity with "Deutschland über alles", which he claimed was based on the same tune. It contrasts with many of the major-key, grandiose melodies used to celebrate patriotism, including God Save The King and Land of Hope and Glory. Its orchestration also contrasts with those anthems, employing muted strings and a celeste, rather than a pipe organ and a choir.
Julie Andrews sang the song on her 1957 debut album, The Lass with the Delicate Air. Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman recorded the song in 1998 for the Twentieth-Century Blues: The Songs of Noel Coward tribute album. To mark the 100th anniversary of Noël Coward's birth, Jeremy Irons sang a selection of his songs at the 1999 Last Night of the Proms held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, ending with "London Pride". In May 2015, Alexander Armstrong performed the song at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember at Horse Guards Parade in London.
- West, Theresa Cornwallis (1847). A Summer Visit to the West of Ireland in 1846. London: R. Bentley. p. 99.
- London Pride full lyrics The Crooked Timber , 7 July 2007
- London Pride Sung by Noel Coward. Accessed April 2013
- "The Lass with the Delicate Air". All music. Retrieved 26 June 2015
- Clerk, Carol (March 21, 1998), "Tennant saves Albarn's 'Pride'", Melody Maker, 75 (12), p. 8
- "Last Night of the Proms 1999". BBC. Retrieved 26 June 2015
- VE Day Concert Katherine Jenkins, Pixie Lott, Status Quo Lead Party at The Standard Retrieved 11 May 2015
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