The British monarchy took a step forward and added to its population on May 19, 2018, with the wedding of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and American-born Meghan Markle (now Duchess of Sussex) of Los Angeles, California.
After months of cliff-hanger anticipation, the dreams of royal wedding fans came through when Prince Harry and his beautiful bride, Meghan Markle finally and officially tied the knot and said their vows in the presence of around 600 guests at St. George’s Chapel on Saturday.
One of the sweetest and important moments in the wedding ceremony of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who has a black mother and white father, was a moving gospel rendition of “Stand By Me” by Karen Gibson-led The Kingdom Choir.
While the hit 1961 blues ballad wasn’t the only song performed at the royal wedding, The Kingdom Choir’s “Stand By Me” performance was the most significant and outstanding.
While hymns and classical music are is the rule at royal weddings, Meghan Markle’s wedding to her British beau, Prince Harry broke protocols in a beautiful way.
The performance of an American civil rights-era anthem by a black choir in the full presence of the British monarchy broke the chains of colour (racial discrimination) and class that are centuries old.
Written by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller and released in 1961, “Stand By Me” was initially conceived as a worship song. A song about enduring love, “Stand By Me” is, of course, a popular wedding tune. But for many, its lyrics run deeper than the surface – it was also interpreted as a political message.
It became a political anthem for solidarity in the face of oppression in the 1960s and still holds sway in the present day.
“Stand By Me” is one of the most covered songs of all time with notable releases by John Lennon in 1975 and Maurice White in 1985.
It ranked 4th on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during its initial release and later ranked #9 in 1986 after being used in the film of the same name.
Just five weeks before King’s death in 2015, the song was included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” “I think this is one of the greatest moments of my life,” King told CBS News before he passed away.
The Kingdom Choir is from southeast England and has been performing for over 20 years.
Karen Gibson, the choir’s conductor, is reputed for holding gospel workshops across the U.K. and Europe as well as Nigeria, Japan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the U.S.
She has conducted a mass choir for the Concert for Diana in 2007 and has been privileged to perform for dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, and Pope Benedict XVI. Boy, isn’t that big!
American bride – Meghan Markle, whose mother is black and father is white, may not be the first biracial royal.
However, according to Anna Whitelock, a royal expert and director of the London Centre for Public History and Heritage, says Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry is much deeper as it represents a more inclusive royal family.
Looking at the history behind “Stand By Me,” the predominantly black Kingdom Choir performing the song at Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry can be considered to be symbolic of this transition.
At the end of the wedding, as Meghan, now Duchess of Sussex and Harry exited the chapel, The Kingdom Choir could be heard performing the American gospel song “This Little Light.”
We can only hope the light of inclusivity and race equality that was lit inside that chapel by The Kingdom Choir will continue to shine brightly and be a beacon of hope for generations to come.