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The music industry pays its respects

With so many parts of the music industry connected to royal institutions and supported by royal patronage, the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has attracted understandable expressions of sadness and respect.

Some of these institutions will also be facing substantial change as a result of King Charles III’s succession to the throne. The performance on Friday 9 September of Hamilton was the last ever to be performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, which returns to its previous name, His Majesty’s Theatre.

As Prince of Wales, King Charles has long been President of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, a role he may have to relinquish, possibly to Prince William as the new Prince of Wales. As the college tweeted, ‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our thoughts are with our College President, King Charles III and the whole of the Royal Family at this time.’

Many took to Twitter to pass comment and to tell of their experiences with the Queen, either at command performances, bestowal of honours or other occasions. Elton John dedicated a rendition of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me to an audience in Canada on the night she died. The Duke Ellington and Verve Records Facebook page told that the Queen loved his music so much she invited him to Buckingham Palace to play. In thanks, he wrote a series of six songs for her that he recorded at his own expense, pressing just one copy as a gift to her.

Others used social media to express their profound sadness at the Queen’s death. The Musicians’ Union, The Royal College of Music, UK Music and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) were among many who posted their tributes. The ISM tweeted, ‘The Queen was a public servant like no other. During her long reign she touched the hearts of musicians at home and abroad. The thoughts and condolences of the ISM are with the Royal Family at this time. May she rest in peace.’

Sir Lucian Grange, Chair and CEO of the Universal Group, also tweeted, ‘Today is a tremendously sad day. On behalf of all of us at Universal Music, I send our deepest condolences to the Royal Family on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.’

But the ISM also posted guidance for musicians left out of pocket by the numerous cancelled events during the mourning period. Its legal advice argued that contracts which contained no Force Majeure clause including an event such as the death of the Queen were in breach by the contractors and recompense should be paid.

Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth was regarded as a true patron of the arts, regardless of the government in office and the cuts it might be making. Many musicians who might not be regarded as royalists had deep respect and admiration for the Queen, just as she did for them. At this year’s Platinum Jubilee Honours alone, 29 were for services to music, including a knighthood for classical pianist Sir Stephen Hough, a CBE for Chi-chi Nwanoku, founder, artistic and executive director of the Chineke! Foundation, and an OBE for Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. 

The Independent digital newspaper published a list of 10 songs, allegedly favourites of the Queen. The choices display a very catholic and mainstream taste that spanned the decades of her reign, including hymns and popular songs from the likes of George Formby, Gary Barlow and Vera Lynn, all of whom received honours from her, apart from Formby, who received his OBE from the Queen’s father.