The RAF’s first ever dedicated Hymn was performed at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 11th April 2022, during a Classic FM Live concert.
The Hymn is titled after the RAF’s motto ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra,’ which translates from Latin to ‘Through Adversity to the Stars.’ Based on Psalm 104, 144 and Isaiah 44, it is filled with Christian imagery of sacrifice and struggle to represent the RAF’s role to defend from the air and ground. Music imitates flight; with piano and strings playing ornamental flutters similar to the movement of feathers, before a crescendo cadence lands the piece on an Amen.
Composer Professor Paul Mealor developed the idea pre-pandemic, with Grahame Davies providing the lyrics. However, the Hymn was originally unable to be performed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
"The Royal Air Force does an enormous amount for this country and indeed around the world, and for them now to have their own Hymn which they can sing with pride about who they are and what they do. I think it is incredibly important and incredibly powerful for Grahame and I who wrote it to be part of that."
Professor Paul Mealor
The Hymn could fittingly be premiered to the Nation at last, during the year of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. It was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society, with Barry Wordsworth as conductor. The Queen’s Colour Squadron marched during the performance, while the Band of the RAF Regiment and the RAF Pipes and Drums also later performed.
"That music, giving us that little element of courage, that little element of hope, in the future is really important for all of us. As I look forward to singing this Hymn many, many times in to the future, I look forward to doing exactly that, to worshiping God through this Hymn, to gaining that little bit of courage through singing alongside my colleagues and my friends and for gaining inspiration from our past and hope for our future."
Group Captain Ruth Hake
Deputy Chaplin-In-Chief RAF
Classic FM – the UK’s most popular classical music station – will celebrate their 30th birthday by broadcasting the RAF’s Hymn on Tuesday 12th April at 20:00pm.
"We thought this was a great opportunity to produce something which can do justice to this Service and the men and women who Serve within it and hopefully provide something which can be an inspiration to those people. We do fundamentally share values which cut across society whether people are religious or otherwise and hopefully these words contain that kind of message which people can share whether they have a faith or not."
The RAF thank Paul and Grahame for creating the Hymn; may it be sung with pride and inspire others, whether religious or not, to keep faith.
Lyrics - Per ardua ad astra
You make the winds Your messengers,
Your servants flames of fire,
You raise them up on eagles’ wings
that tempests cannot tire.
You make the clouds Your chariot,
the lightning bolt Your blade.
Give us your strength to keep from harm
the heavens that You made.
Although our path may lead from peace,
and strife may stain the hand,
it is through faith that we may fall,
for love we leave the land.
Through faith You fell beneath the cross,
for love were lifted high.
Go with the guardians of the earth
whose summons is the sky.
You called Your true companions,
to leave the land they knew.
The keepers of Your kingdom are
the faithful and the few.
You fought between the earth and sky:
Your body bears the scars.
Be with the brave whom duty calls
through struggle to the stars.