London’s top free tourist attraction, Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, has not taken place since March 2020, and the world-renowned military bands of the Household Division have only been able to perform in private. For the longest period since the second world war, state ceremonial and public duties have been absent from London, due to the COVID 19 Pandemic.
Now, celebrating the lifting of lockdown, and the easing of restrictions, the British Army is poised to bring back ceremonial splendour to the heart of the capital, starting with a magnificent public concert on Horse Guards Parade.
Titled ‘The Sword & The Crown’, this musical spectacular, available to the public, will star the Foot Guards in their red tunics and bearskin caps and showcase some of the most talented military musicians in the British Army. It is hoped this unique event, staged outdoors over three nights next week, will bring a much-needed lift to the country’s spirits after a challenging year and a half, endured bravely by all.
Prepare to welcome back the Bands of the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish & Welsh Guards with the Corps of Drums of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. They will perform as a massed band on Horse Guards Parade for the first time since The Queen’s Birthday Parade in June 2019.
The Massed Bands of the Household Division will also be joined by the Band of the Honourable Artillery Company, the Band of the Royal Yeomanry, The Pipes & Drums of the London Scottish Regiment, the Corps of Drums of The Honourable Artillery Company and the Combined Universities’ Officer Training Corps Pipes and Drums.
Over the past 18 months, amongst uncertainty and unpredictability, the Bands and infantry units have demonstrated their professionalism, combined with a sense of flexibility and enthusiasm, to play an integral part supporting Operation Rescript, the military response to COVID-19. Now they are back centre stage, doing what they do best.
The concert will combine immaculate drill, dramatic scores, light effects, fireworks and unbridled emotion. The evening’s musical narrative will focus on ‘Global Britain’, heralded by ‘Fanfare for a Great Occasion’. As the United Kingdom prepares to take its place in the world post COVID, the ‘Union’ narrative will strike a patriotic chord with beautiful traditional songs and airs from the massed Pipes and Drums. The music will then travel farther afield in ‘Rangers Alert’, a new composition highlighting the UK Government’s environmental support against the illegal wildlife trade in Zambia.
Amidst the wide-ranging styles of music performed will be cinematic favourites including an entire suite devoted to 007, James Bond. The British Army has a cameo role in the new Bond film which premieres later this year.
As part of a rousing finale, ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’, perhaps one of the most loved hymns and anthems in the repertoire of great British music, will match video and imagery projections of troops in action from the COVID Support Force to overseas commitments to the support the Household Division gives to Her Majesty The Queen.
VIPs will join the public for each performance with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab taking the salute on Wednesday and HRH The Princess Royal as Guest of Honour on Thursday.
The soldiers privileged to perform on parade not only represent the musical talent of the British Army but also the breadth of roles the military provides. In the last sixteen months the British Army has been focused on supporting the National Health Service in the fight against COVID-19 and a large number of those on parade will have been involved in that fight.
Four musicians are not joining the bands on parade as their duties continue at The Royal Hospital Chelsea. They are providing ongoing support to the Chelsea Pensioners, administering daily onsite lateral flow device tests to help keep them and staff safe. One musician reflected on this being one of her most rewarding times in the Army. She said, ‘Both the staff and In-Pensioners were extremely welcoming, and I found it hugely rewarding to see the direct impact my work was having. It’s an honour to be able to help protect them as part of my service’.
We have all learnt to adapt recently to changing rules and regulations, and the British Army is no different, especially when it comes to State Ceremonial events. It is a real joy for the Army to welcome an audience back to Horse Guards.
The outdoors concert will be repeated over three evenings on 20, 21 and 22 July, against one of the most beautiful backdrops in London. Tickets are available to purchase online at www.householddivision.eventbrite.co.uk, in person at Horse Guards Parade or the Guards Museum, Birdcage Walk London.