Wednesday, 8 February 2017


Elizabeth II in her Coronation Robes, 1953
It was on this 8th day in February in the year 1952 that former Princess-turned-Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen – not only of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland – but also of the Commonwealth Nations, including my very own: Canada - the True North, Strong and Free.

As the author of this blog and as both a proud Canadian and member of the Commonwealth, I dedicate this post to our Queen; Unraveling Musical Myths will today take a very brief – and very musical - retrospective journey into Elizabeth’s reign: both as Crown Princess and as Queen, in recognition of her many contributions to the musical arts.

Our Royal Head of State – currently Canada’s longest reigning Monarch (at 65 years on the throne) - boats an Honorary Bachelor of Music degree from the University of London, and has, for her 6+ decades of rule, proved to be quite the champion of the musical arts – frequently patronizing the both the theater and concert hall and supporting charities for the benefit of up-and-coming and established musicians through her participation in various fundraising campaigns.

In the early 20th century, as a young princess under her father (then-reigning King George VI), Elizabeth would inspire English composer and "Master of the King's Music" Edward Elgar to compose his 'Nursery Suite' in honor of the little royal and her recently born infant sister, Princess Margaret in September 1930. The seven-movement piece (including a coda) would be doubly notable as one of the famous musician’s last compositions:

Later, as a young Lady Princess, accompanied by her newfound prince, husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, her royal parents (King George VI and his wife Elizabeth), and younger sister Margaret would together arrive at The Royal Festival Hall to mark the opening of the prestigious theater in 1951. Elizabeth would return to the theater some 56 years later – as Queen – to re-open the Concert Hall after it was shuttered in 2005 for two years to placate a refurbishing effort.

The coveted Queen's Medal for Music
2005 would also mark the year in which the "Queen’s Medal for Music" was officially inaugurated. Nominee vetting and selection for the Medal is currently overseen by a committee serving under the "Master of the Queen’s Music." The first recipient of the Queen’s medal was famed Australian (a member of the Commonwealth) conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, and was presented to the musician by the Queen herself at Buckingham Palace on November 22nd, 2005.

Elizabeth would prove a most progressive Monarch in 2014, when British composer Judith Weir was approved as current Master of the Queen’s Music – the first female in English history to hold the highly coveted position (Weir was preceded by English composer and conductor Sir Peter Maxwell Davies). “Dame Weir" - who had earned the honorific in 2005 when she was made an esteemed recipient of the Order of the British Empire (as “CBE”), will serve in this role for a period of 10 years – the limited duration another progressive “Elizabethan” trademark: prior to Elizabeth’s reign as Queen, all of the Monarch's chosen recipients would hold the title for life. Under Elizabeth’s new 'decade regime,' the United Kingdom - and indeed the world - will inevitably become introduced to a variety of English composers, and English Music.

The above examples of Elizabeth’s influence are only but a few of the Monarchs' enduring contributions to the realm of Western Classical Music.

Royal Standard (Flag) of Canada
By forcing outdated traditions (such as male exclusive, lifetime posts as Master of Queen’s Music) into the past to better reflect modern social conventions, our Queen single-handedly embraces the progressive spirit of the present age from what is perhaps one of the world’s most visible and influential platforms. Revisions to the status quo such as these are of undoubted importance – especially where music (specifically classical music) is concerned – in which female leadership remains at an emerging state in a still male-dominated arena. It is by innovations such as these, and by being a frequent presence on the classical and operatic frontlines that Queen Elizabeth II serves as a great boon - not only to the talented classical musicians of Britain, but to the musical genre itself.

It is my honor and privilege to be a citizen of this Realm, and of Canada. Our incredibly rich histories are One, our music among Lady Times’ most esteemed, our Freedoms unsurpassed the world over.

Learn more about Sir Edward Elgar's tenure as "Master of King's/Queen's Music" and the role of the Monarchy in Canada here on Unraveling Musical Myths:

Discover more (external links):
  • Read about how Princess Elizabeth first learned she would be called "Queen" - a fascinating story at BBC  
  • Newspaper article February 8, 1952 at Winnipeg Free Press Archive


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