On the same day that The King and Queen received the The Honours of Scotland, their Coronation celebrations were brought south of the border. Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh, Colonel Royal Corps of Army Music, joined thousands of members of the public in London for the Household Division’s Military Musical Spectacular: ‘Orb and Sceptre’.
The Massed Bands of the Household Division performed their annual summer concert over three nights in the heart of London, on 4, 5 and 6 July 2023. The live outdoor ceremonial event, featuring fireworks, precision drill, military working horses, and stunning audio-visual effects, showcased some of the most talented military musicians in the British Army.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will be discharging their First World War 13-pounder guns in a dramatic tribute to Edward Elgar, and we will have some special surprises in store: last time we had a guitarist on the roof which became a social media sensation seen by 3.5 million people at once. It really is a Military Musical Spectacular." Major Adrian Beckett
Major Adrian Beckett, Operations Officer of The Bands of the Household Division, said: “As well as our personal musical celebration marking the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, this year’s concert also recognises the military’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of soldiers - from the work of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole in the Crimean War, through to the present day”.
The Household Division Military Musical Spectacular 2023 is based on the traditional Beating Retreat ceremony but is so much more. Like the very best of the Army, each performance is a blend of the familiar and the new, youth and experience. Iconic music, including the William Walton ‘Orb and Sceptre’ of the show’s title was joined by popular greats such as ‘Knights of the Realm’ – a dramatic rendering of works by Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Brian May, Sir Mick Jagger along with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and others.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, normally seen performing Royal Salutes for state occasions and Royal anniversaries, performed a Ceremonial Walk Past with their immaculate bay horses after firing their guns as part of the feast of sound, colour and pageantry.
“The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will be discharging their First World War 13-pounder guns in a dramatic tribute to Edward Elgar, and we will have some special surprises in store: last time we had a guitarist on the roof which became a social media sensation seen by 3.5 million people at once. It really is a Military Musical Spectacular!” Major Adrian Beckett enthused.
The virtuosity of British Army soldiers is demonstrated by the prowess of the Massed Pipes and Drums. These are made up exclusively of combat infantry soldiers more usually employed in rifle platoons and as machine gunners in the Guards Battalions. Many of these soldiers have deployed globally in their operational role in recent months.
Amongst the film footage accompanying the concert, BBC News and Events anchor Huw Edwards made a special recording for the occasion paying homage to the 120 people including Musicians from the Band of the Coldstream Guards who were killed in the WW2 bombing of The Guards Chapel.
Just weeks ago, the same soldiers delivered the King’s first official Birthday Parade – Trooping The Colour, this week the formality of that grand occasion is transformed into a glittering spectacle and impressive range of sound. The Massed Bands of the Household Division consist of The Band of The Household Cavalry, the Band of the Grenadier Guards, the Band of the Coldstream Guards, the Band of the Scots Guards, the Band of the Irish Guards, the Band of the Welsh Guards and members of the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra. They were joined for the performance by the Pipes of The Irish Guards supported by the London Scottish Regiment Pipes & Drums, the National Cadet Pipes and Drums, and the Royal Yeomanry Band.
Each evening several thousand members of the public joined VVIPs and 350 musicians for a memorable musical experience. The Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Sir Roly Walker took the salute on the first evening; and The Princess Royal, Senior Colonel of the Household Division, took the salute on the third evening.
As night fell over the iconic London skyline, framed by Whitehall and St James’s Park, each evening’s concert ended with a dramatic and rousing finale with all the combined musical forces performing as one with a stunning pyrotechnic display.
Every one of the musicians taking part played key roles in The Coronation Processions and Service in London and the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle in May. It has been a busy and unforgettable summer for all those involved, and it is a testament to their hard-work and dedication that they are all on Horse Guards for this three-night event continuing to deliver excellence in this memorable year.
British Army musicians come from many walks of life, across the length and breadth of all nations of the UK and the Commonwealth. In this way, the Household Division represents in essence the British Army, and the United Kingdom, to the world. All participating soldiers are honoured and proud to serve His Majesty The King, their Colonel in Chief, and to perform once more for His Coronation celebration.