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 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.
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.
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.
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.