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Chief of the General Staff takes the salute at the Military Musical Spectacular

The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders, took the salute on Tuesday evening for the Household Division Military Musical Spectacular on Horse Guards Parade as the Army paid tribute to The Queen and the Commonwealth in Her Platinum Jubilee Year.

On Tuesday evening, several thousand members of the public joined the Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace and the Head of the Army General Sir Patrick Sanders, for a memorable musical experience with the world-renowned Massed Bands of the Army’s Household Division.

“It’s really important that we have the newly appointed CGS here tonight. It’s our chance to demonstrate what we do best, and how it should be done, and will hopefully set the tone for the rest of his career.” Lieutenant Colonel Simon Haw, Senior Director of Music, Household Division

Like the very best of the Army, this performance was a blend of the familiar and the new, youth and experience. Familiar tunes were underpinned by messages that drew strength from the foundations of the past but looked forward to a new world, the world of Future Soldier, where respect for nature and ethical technological advancement could bring about a better, more secure environment for all.

The Music

There was iconic music, chosen to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Reign, such as Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest‘, sung by The Royal Choral Society, and Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’, performed by the Massed Bands.

There were exciting new compositions: Patrick Hawes’ ‘All Princely Graces’, and ‘April’ from ‘Green Canopy’, a work written in 2022 by Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Simon Haw and inspired by The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, and which featured so memorably in the Platinum Party at the Palace concert at Buckingham Palace. 

The Army has embraced the Green Canopy initiative by planting trees on its estate all over the United Kingdom, and takes its role as custodian of many of the United Kingdom’s precious natural spaces through its use of the Army training estate very seriously. 

It was a memorable night for everyone involved but for Lt Col Simon Haw who directed and composed many of the pieces, it was particularly poignant: “I’m proud to be here as Commanding Officer of the Bands of the Household Division.

"It’s my last Army parade after 34 years of service and what better way to finish my career than to deliver the Military Musical Spectacular on HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.”

The Performers

One hundred and fifty children from The Commonwealth Youth Choir, accompanied by the Massed Bands, performed ‘A Song for The Commonwealth’, composed by Lt Col Haw. We are fortunate to have serving soldiers from almost every country in the Commonwealth represented in the British Army. The diversity and fresh ideas they bring is invaluable for a force adapting to rapidly changing threats.

The Army benefits from regular military training exercises, working closely with our Commonwealth allies in the UK and overseas, so that when we serve together on operations we are stronger.

"Music is a universal language that transcends cultures and languages, and uplifts everyone. From the beat of the drum to the call of the bugle, soldiers identify with music and it not only improves their drill but puts a smile on their face.” Lieutenant Colonel Simon Haw, Senior Director of Music, Household Division

The Band of the Household Cavalry tonight performed as a marching band under the direction of Major Paul Collis-Smith. Their staged folk ensemble featured Lance Corporal of Horse Kate Sandford on harp, Lance Corporal of Horse Rachael Taylor on flute, Lance Corporal Chris Diggle on drums and Musician Adam Smith on accordion. They were joined by the Drums and Pipes from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards to reveal a beautiful setting titled, ‘Balmoral’ in tribute to The Queen’s Scottish home.

In the Army, Pipers and Drummers are not professionally trained musicians, but are first and foremost infantry soldiers trained to fight and defend. Those performing on Horse Guards are currently the rifle platoon and the machine gun platoon of the Irish Guards Battalion. These soldiers have deployed as Infantry on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cyprus and most recently in South Sudan working with the United Nations

The British Army’s professional musicians of the Household Division Bands were also joined by The London Scottish Pipes and Drums which was created in 1860 as part of the Army Reserve. This makes it the oldest volunteer Pipes and Drums band in the world.

Also taking part were The Royal Choral Society which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year; The Commonwealth Youth Choir; and The Royal British Legion Band & Corps of Drums Romford, which celebrates its Platinum Jubilee this year along with Her Majesty The Queen, making the Band one of the longest running independent youth bands in the UK today. Mentored by former and serving members of the Royal Corps of Army Music, who ensure an outstanding standard of musicianship, the average age of the musicians is 17 with the youngest member aged just nine years old.

As night began to fall over the spectacular backdrop framed by Whitehall and St James’s Park, the evening concert ended with a dramatic and rousing finale with all the combined musical forces performing ‘Vivat Regina’ - long live The Queen!

During the pandemic, publicly performed music was absent and the Guardsmen marched to their duties in silence. The Bands of The Household Division are well aware of the restorative powers of music and its ability to raise morale in the darkest times.

During the pandemic they recorded hundreds of pieces of music which they have made available for free download as a gift to the nation. But there is no substitute for witnessing music performed live. Now the bands are firmly back on track, performing with the Guards in bearskin caps and scarlet tunics, marching once again to reassuringly familiar tunes in London, around the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth. 

The Platinum Jubilee saw Trooping The Colour return to Horse Guards Parade with the full Massed Bands at its heart, giving the soldiers taking part, and the nation watching, a renewed sense of optimism.

As Rudyard Kipling explained in ‘The Soul of The Battalion’: “A Man who has had any experience of the Service can testify that a battalion is better for music at every turn – happier, easier to handle and with a greater zest for its daily routine.”