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by Lance Corporal Rachael Kendall
The Band of the Scots Guards

HM The Queen Elizabeth II marked her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022, celebrating 70 years on the throne, and becoming the longest reigning monarch in British history. The bank holiday weekend, from 2nd to 5th June, offered the British public an array of celebrations. Trooping the Colour began the proceedings, local street parties took place across the country and a Platinum Jubilee Pageant inspired by memorable moments from Her Majesty’s reign, showcasing our changing society over the past 70 years, brought the proceedings to a close.  However, to many, the Star-Studded Jubilee Concert was the pinnacle of the weekend. A royal event of this grandeur would not be complete without the presence of the British Army and this concert was no exception. The Orchestra of the Household Division represented Her Majesty The Queen on the stage dressed in their recognisable scarlet and gold tunics.

The BBC’s Platinum Party in the Palace on Saturday 4th June 2022 was one of the most watched televised events of 2022 with an estimated 13.3 million viewers with 22,000 spectators attending this free event, with 10,000 public ballot tickets and 7,500 tickets given to key workers, the Armed Forces, volunteers, and charity workers. This illustrious homage to Her Majesty’s unprecedented reign was inspired by global themes and events that have occurred during her 70-year reign, including contributions from sports, fashion, the environment, as well as musical representatives from across the past 70 years.

The Orchestra of the Household Division

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Haw conducting the
Orchestra of the Household Division

In a similar formation to The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in 2012, Buckingham Palace became the centre of a 360-degree experience, walkways connected three pop up stages incorporating the Queen Victoria Memorial, as well as using the fascia of the Palace to project 3D images linking to the different performances. 70 columns were erected as part of the stage design, representing the 70 years that Her Majesty The Queen has reigned on the throne. Although The Queen was sadly not able to attend, the event started with a pre-recorded sketch of The Queen alongside one of the country’s much beloved British Institutions, Paddington Bear, voiced by Ben Whishaw. The Palace said ‘Her Majesty is well known for her sense of humour, so it should be no surprise that she decided to take part in tonight’s sketch. While The Queen may not be attending the concert in person, she was very keen that people understood how much it meant to her and that all those watching had a great time’. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge led the Royal Family alongside their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, accompanied by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall amongst other members of the Royal family.

Although The Queen was not there herself, the aptly named ‘Queen and Adam Lambert’ began the event. The iconic drum beat to We Will Rock You was perfectly synchronised to The Queen and Paddington Bear as they clinked their tea cups to the drum riff, heard live on stage as the Royal Marines Corps of Drums marched on. As Brian May says ‘Twenty years after playing at The Queen’s glorious Golden Jubilee we’re happy to be invited again. Then there was a moment when I wondered…. After the Buckingham Palace roof where can you go? Well… you will see!’. To a cheering crowd, Brian May appeared from under the stage constructed around the Queen Victoria Memorial shredding on guitar. Other notable performers included Elbow performing One Day Like This alongside the Citizens of the World Choir, George Ezra, Sam Ryder and Sir Rod Stewart rousing the crowds with a rendition of Sweet Caroline.

The Orchestra of the Household Division had great pleasure in accompanying some of the most talented artists in the West End today, celebrating Britain’s rich musical theatre heritage including shows such as Hamilton, Six, The Lion King and Joseph. The musical sequence was introduced by composer and impresario of musical theatre, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda who performed a comical duet, most notably stating [Her Majesty’s] ‘reign has outrun any West End show in history’. Other distinguished guests included Alicia Keys who performed a medley of her most iconic songs, a set list personally requested by The Queen herself, accompanied by the Orchestra of the Household Division. Songs included Superwomen, Girl on Fire, concluding with Empire State of Mind, appropriately changing the lyrics from Now You’re in New York to Now you’re in London.

Throughout the Platinum Jubilee weekend, audiences were able to spot the iconic scarlet and gold tunics of the Household Division, and their attendance at the Platinum Jubilee Concert did not go amiss. Replacing the bearskin and studded boots worn on Thursday’s Trooping of the Colour, the Orchestra of the Household Division figuratively adopted different hats to perform an array of stylistic music to accompany some of the most renowned artists of this time. Military musicians are well versed in their ability to perform in multiple genres, as seen during their regular duties performing the Changing of the Guard. This preparation ensures success is achieved through professionalism, accuracy and speed during time sensitive rehearsals.  Musicians were required to not only follow the conductor, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Haw, but to also follow a click track. This metronomic device played through individual headphones, ensures every musician on all three stages performed simultaneously. Without doubt, a prerequisite of being a military musician is the need for resilience, and this was once again delivered as an arduous rehearsal schedule was followed leading up to the Jubilee weekend. However, musicians were delighted to be part of this historic event: one orchestra member said, ‘As military musicians we regularly pay tribute to Her Majesty The Queen through music, as seen through regular duties such as Changing of the Guard and our presence at high profile State Ceremonial events such as Guards of Honours. However, having the opportunity to work alongside some of the most talented celebrities of our lifetime, whilst wearing the scarlet tunic at an event that will become a landmark in British history is a prodigious privilege, one to which words cannot do justice’.

The Orchestra of the Household Division

Darkness descends on the audience

Another extraordinary performance accompanied by the Household Division was by one of the World’s most beloved Italian operatic tenors, Andrea Bocelli. His stunning rendition of Puccini’s classic aria from Turandot, Nessun Dorma, ensured there was not a dry eye amongst spectators. He explained, ‘I am about to sing in front of Her Majesty and the Royal Family, in the hope of worthily expressing, through the universal language of music, my admiration for an equally universal character: one of the most remarkable figures of recent times’. Another key performance featuring the orchestra alone was Hans Zimmer’s Green Planet, in accompaniment to the powerful words of Sir David Attenborough, delivering a speech reminding audiences to reflect on the current climate change the world is facing. Colour images depicting our beautiful planet were displayed across the Palace, whilst the Royal Ballet School performed an emotive piece evoking emotions of nature and wildlife. Prince William also spoke about the importance of protecting our planet, saying ‘Together, if we harness the very best of humankind and restore our planet, we will protect it for our children, for our grandchildren, and for future generations to come. They will be able to say, with pride at what’s been achieved, what a wonderful world’. Skilfully, this introduced the next performer, Celeste, who soulfully sang an arrangement of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World accompanied by the orchestra.

One final surprise concluded the show through a state-of-the-art aerial spectacle by SKYMAGIC, a show which lit up the sky above Buckingham Palace and could be seen from locations miles across London. 400 choreographed drones created moving images of quintessential British symbols including a teapot and teacup, a postage stamp of Her Majesty The Queen, a depiction of The Queen’s beloved corgi dog, and a ‘thank you Ma’am’ message. Overall, the evening was reported to be a huge success in celebrating one of the most influential and loved Monarchs in British History.

Her Majesty The Queen responded to the weekend’s festivities, ‘while I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family. I have been inspired by the kindness, joy and kinship that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come. I thank you most sincerely for your good wishes and for the part you have all played in these happy celebrations’.

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