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Queen Elizabeth II And Music: A Love Affair

The monarch loved music and musicians loved her. We highlight some of the great music and moments from her reign.

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Queen Elizabeth II meeting music greats Brian May and Jimmy Page
Brian May and Jimmy Page meeting Queen Elizabeth II - Photo: Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage

Queen Elizabeth II was a champion of the arts, and during her seven-decade reign, she embraced musicians and bands in the UK and abroad. From her knowledge and devotion to show tunes to the now-famous Jubilee concerts, here are some of the most memorable interactions between Queen Elizabeth and world-famous musicians, and some of her favorite groups and pieces throughout the years.

Party at the Palace

Party at the Palace took place at the Buckingham Garden on June 3, 2002, in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. The music came from a “house band” consisting of Phil Palmer, Pino Palladino, Paul Wickens, Phil Collins, Ray Cooper, Eric Robinson, and more. Notably, Roger Taylor and Brian May from Queen performed a number of songs, including “God Save The Queen,” during which May played guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace. Other performers included Paul McCartney, Elton John, Rod Stewart, and more.

Two days earlier, The Queen hosted The Prom at the Palace, a British classical music concert also held at the Garden. The event, which was directed by Nicholas Kenyon, was broadcast by the BBC and shown in over 40 countries.

The Diamond Jubilee

Ten years later, Take That’s Gary Barlow organized The Diamond Jubilee Concert, which marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne. Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a song for the event entitled “Sing,” which was unveiled for the first time at the event by a choir from many Commonwealth countries. (Queen Elizabeth later included it in a playlist of her favorite songs.) Other artists included Elton John performing “I’m Still Standing,” “Your Song,” and “Crocodile Rock,” while Stevie Wonder offered renditions of “Sir Duke,” “Isn’t She Lovely?,” “Happy Birthday” (with will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas), and “Superstition.” Paul McCartney also delivered a number of classics including “Magical Mystery Tour,” “All My Loving,” “Let It Be,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

The Platinum Party

The Platinum Party at the Palace, held in June of 2022 celebrated The Queen’s seventh decade presiding over England. Among the highlights: Queen Elizabeth II appearing with none other than Paddington Bear, with Her Majesty tapping her tea cup to the famous rhythm of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” The show was filled with a number of show-stopping moments, including songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Lloyd Webber like “Wait for It,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Circle of Life (ft. Lebo M.),” “Ex-Wives/Six,” and “Any Dream Will Do (ft. Jason Donovan).” Queen and Adam Lambert joined forces for “We Will Rock You,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and “We Are the Champions.” Diana Ross wowed the crowd with “Chain Reaction,” “Thank You,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and Andrea Bocelli offered a rousing rendition of the aria “Nessun dorma.”

Classical Music / Master of the Queen’s Music

The Queen was a devotee and champion of classical music throughout her life. As such, during her reign, she paid special attention to the Master of the Queen’s Music. The role is held by distinguished members of the classical music community. Historically, the Master has been tasked with writing music for important ceremonial occasions. Queen Elizabeth had four Masters during her reign, including Australian composer Malcolm Williamson. The current Master, Judith Weir, is the first female to hold the position.

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten was one of the biggest names in 20th-century British classical music. So it’s no surprise that his career intertwined with Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The opera Gloriana premiered around the festivities for Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. Its somber and human depiction of Elizabeth I made waves at the time, but it’s since gone on to be recognized as one of Britten’s finest operas.

The Nursery Suite

Edward Elgar, who was Master of the King’s Music when Princess Elizabeth was four, created the “Nursery Suite” to honor the princess and her newborn sister, Princess Margaret. At 5, Elizabeth attended her first world premiere when Elgar conducted the concert premiere of the suite, which he already had recorded, making it the first orchestra score to receive its world premiere on a gramophone record.

Musicals

Everyone knew that Queen Elizabeth II loved music throughout her reign, but it wasn’t always clear exactly what music she deeply loved. That changed in 2016 with a BBC program and playlist that spotlighted some of her favorite shows and songs. “The Queen loves the theatre and musicals like Showboat, Oklahoma!, and Annie Get Your Gun,” her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, shared in a reported segment of the program.

Pipe bands

It’s perhaps little surprise, given her ties to Scotland, but Queen Elizabeth II loved the music of pipe bands. “Apparently, we were one of the few bands ever invited to Balmoral to play for her,” said the Mount Forest pipers after being recruited for a performance. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth awoke to the sound of a piper just about every morning, at 9 AM sharp.

Duke Ellington

In 1959, Duke Ellington created a unique musical object, an album exclusively for the ears of Queen Elizabeth. He recruited Billy Strayhorn to help him compose The Queen’s Suite, and had one copy printed, which was sent directly to Buckingham Palace. Ellington’s band recorded the composition over the course of three sessions in February and April of 1959. In order to ensure that no other copies were ever released, Ellington paid his record label the production costs. The original score to The Queen’s Suite is now in the collection of the National Museum of American History.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Annie Finch Johnson

    September 10, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Queen Elizabeth II may your spirit rest in the glory of God’s heaven. You have served the United Kingdom to the highest of your sense and abilities.

    I was about the age of 14 when you and Prince Phillip were married. Queen Elizabeth, your grace, strength, abilities and style has always inspired me.

    May your family, friends, and your country be at peace, and rest assured that you have served in your calling with the highest of intent and dignity to your best.

  2. P.Y.Pyron

    September 10, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    I was around the age of 6 or 7 during her Coranation, I don’t know why I was up so early, but I will never forget it! It’s as if is recorded in my mind…a Fairy Tale! May The Blessings of our lord be among her family and friends during this time!!

  3. Rebecca Salvi

    September 11, 2022 at 10:21 am

    It was of interest to read about Queen Elizabeth’s favorite music. I see quite an assortment of musicians have performed for and honored her with compositions. The “piper” music is a favorite of mine and I loved the fact the queen awoke to the music of a piper every morning. How wonderful! Thank you, your majesty for serving your kingdom and the world so well

  4. Cylene A S D Gama

    September 11, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    your sweet and firm words express my feelings Ms Anne Finch Johnson. I am from a small town in BR, so far the Heart and spirit Of Love and Dignity of HM The Queen have reached ! GOD has always blessed the Queen and she will be remembered for generations to come.

  5. Steve Bowie

    September 14, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    “The Queen’s Suite” was released by Pablo Records in 1976, two years after Duke Ellington’s death.

  6. Steve Bowie

    September 14, 2022 at 6:03 pm

    “The Queen’s Suite” was released on Pablo Records in 1976, two years after Duke Ellington’s death.

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