This is a short work whose title divulges its dual character of celebration and religious worship. Actually, the music favors the former and features a regal, even slightly stiff quality, hardly surprising traits in a work that Vaughan Williams wrote for the May 12, 1937, coronation of King George VI. While the organ, especially when playing the vigorous opening theme, may be more musically appropriate, it is the orchestra that may be the better alternative for capturing the grandeur and celebratory mood of the piece. At the premiere, Adrian Boult led the performance and used the orchestral version supplied by the composer.
The text for the Festival Te Deum comes from the Book of Common Prayer, used in the Anglican and Episcopal churches. Vaughan Williams borrowed traditional themes here and, in the end, fashioned a work whose brightness and regality invigorate without descending into bombast, and if this Te Deum's religious manner is a bit overwhelmed by all the shimmer, it nevertheless receives a good measure of glory and majesty. For those interested in festive choral music, this will have appeal.