Throughout Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, spanning seven decades, she has been an active participant in the world of arts and classical music. She is recognized as an established patron of classical music with unwavering devotion to Britain's classical music scene. Not only does she regularly attend concerts, award musicians with musical honors, and support her nation's military bands and orchestras, but she also has a long personal involvement with music, having earned two honorary musical degrees and mastered the piano.
How Has Queen Elizabeth II Contributed to the Arts and Music?
1. The Queen Features Musical Instruments and Historical Artifacts in the Royal Collection
The Royal Collection features several musical instruments and artifacts.
Buckingham Palace in London features a gorgeous gold grand piano that belongs to the Queen, as well as an organ. This grand piano once belonged to Queen Victoria.
The Royal Collection also features George III's Meissen Porcelain Flute and Dragonetti's Basse de Violon.
Her Majesty's collections of paintings often feature musicians and scenes of musicians playing music.
2. Queen Elizabeth II appointed the first ever female Master of the Queen's Music in history
Charles I appointed the first Master of the Queen's (or King's) Music in 1626. Nicolas Lanier was the first composer to be appointed as the Master of the King's Music. Other significant musicians who have held this position include John Eccles, Sir Walford Davies, and Malcolm Williamson
The Master of the Queen’s Music was established as a musical counterpart to the Poet Laureate, and it was established in order to recognize significant musicians or musicians who held royal positions. This included directing the monarch's band (which was disbanded in 1901 by Edward VII).
To date, Queen Elizabeth II has appointed four Masters of the Queen's Music: Malcolm Williamson, Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Peter Maxwell Davis, and most importantly, Judith Weir, who is the first woman to be appointed as Master of the Queen's Music and still holds the office to this day.
3. The Queen Organizes Fundraisers for Orchestras and Musical Organizations
Given that the Queen is a patron of hundreds of organizations and charities, many of which are music related, the Queen has dedicated many hours to fundraising for these organizations. She is often spotted at music-related events as a sponsor or patron.
4. The Queens Helps to Open Concert Halls and Endorses Music Events
The Queen Elizabeth Hall at London's Southbank is named for the Queen because she helped to open the hall in March of 1967. Several other royal venues have been opened during the Queen's reign, and the Royal Festival Hall opened in 1951 when she was still Princess Elizabeth.
The Queen is a patron of over 600 organizations and charities, several of which are music oriented. These include National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, Help Musicians UK, London Symphony Orchestra, Southbank Centre, Royal Choral Society, and Piobaireachd Society.
Help Musicians UK is famous for helping musicians at any stage of their career when they may need it, whether it be the beginning of their career or their retirement. The Piobaireachd Society focuses on the bagpipe. More specifically, their mission statement refers to “the study and playing of classical music on the bagpipe.”
5. The Queen Attends Concerts and Classical Music Performances
Queen Elizabeth regularly participates in musical events or festivals, either by helping to open the events or attending as a guest of honor.
In 1938, when Queen Elizabeth was still Princess Elizabeth, she was recognized for attending the National Festival of the School's Music Festivals of England along with her sister. Both sisters returned to the Royal Albert Hall in 1944 to honor Sir Henry Wood when he celebrated his 75th birthday.
The Queen received recognition for attending a St Cecilia's Day concert for the Musician's Benevolent Fund at the Royal Festival Hall in 1952. Given the significance of St Cecilia's Day in the world of music, and the Queen's choice to award her Medal for Music, her attendance at a concert for the Musician's Benevolent Fund aligns with her contribution and dedication to the world of classical music.
In more recent years, the Queen was given a concert set at the Royal Academy of Music. The Queen heard a performance that was given on a Stradivarius violin. Stradivarius is a maker of high-end violins, violas, cellos, and other string instruments. A Stradivarius can sell for up to $16 million.
6. Establishing The Queen's Medal for Music
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth inaugurated the Queen's Medal for Music award, which was to be “presented annually to an outstanding individual or group of musicians who have had a major influence on the musical life of the nation.”
This award was established in 2005 as a way to offer recognition to eligible musicians. The medal would be awarded annually on St Cecilia's Day, given that St Cecilia was the patron saint of music.
The first recipient of the Queen's Medal for Music in 2005 was conductor Sir Charles Mackerras. Other notable recipients include Kathryn Tickell in 2008, composer Judith Weir in 2007, Dame Emma Kirkby in 2010, Gary Krosby in 2018, and John Wallace in 2021.
As the first recipient of the Queen's Medal for Music in 2005, Mackerras expressed his gratitude, saying to the press secretary: “I am very pleased to welcome the Queen’s Medal for Music, as a concrete symbol of the esteem which most of us feel musical life in Britain deserves.”
7. The Queen Supports and Organizes Military Orchestras and Bands
Her Majesty's Armed Forces contain a variety of orchestras and bands within each division. The Royal Marines, the Royal Navy, British Army, and the Royal Air Force each have their own bands or orchestras. These include the Band of the Household Cavalry, the Band of Grenadier Guards, and orchestras reserved for ceremonies, such as Countess of Wessex's String Orchestra and the Royal Air Force Salon Orchestra.
British orchestras and bands for the military are important because they provide secure employment for many musicians. As most are probably aware, even the most talented musicians can struggle with job security due to the nature of their careers. A music career can be unstable as music jobs are often scarce, competitive, and seasonal. The Queen maintains the livelihood of hundreds of musicians by supporting military bands and orchestras.
The Chapel Royal is a spiritual establishment that also serves the Queen and the rest of the Royal family.
8. The Queen Recognized Musicians in Her Birthday Honors List
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II recognizes notable musicians each year in her Birthday Honors List for their contributions to music. Musicians that have been recognized over the years include Julian Lloyd Webber, Bernard Haitink, pianist Hew Watkins, and saxophonist Jess Gilliam.
Famous musicians such as Robert Plant, The Beatles, and Mick Jagger have also received honors from the Queen.
When Roger Dalty was recognized on the Queen’s honor list in 2004, he said, “I’m so very pleased. It’s really great to be honored by my country. I feel undeserving of such an honor.”
Does the Queen Like Classical Music?
Queen Elizabeth II, along with her sister, was raised with an appreciation of music and the arts. If you're wondering how Queen Elizabeth II contributed to the arts and music, you may be surprised to find that music has been a major part of Queen Elizabeth II's life since a young age. Her background has contributed to her devotion to and love of classical music.
The Queen was taught at home with schooling lessons that often focused on literature, language, history, and music. During the 1930s, Queen Elizabeth II and her sister were cared for by St George's Chapel's resident organist.
The English organist and composer, Sir William Henry Harris, shared his passion for music with the girls. Once a week, he would lead a madrigal practice for the chorister, and the girls would sing with the choristers.
Does Queen Elizabeth II Play the Piano?
The Queen learned to play the piano when she was just 11 years old. Her sister, Princess Margaret, was better known for her musical talents. She was recognized for her talent as a singer and pianist.
The Queen was better known for her passion for nature, the outdoors, and animals. However, she still had a great appreciation for music and continued to play the piano as a hobby.
In recent years, the Queen's appreciation for the piano is still prevalent. When she addressed the nation for her traditional Christmas Day Queen's Speech, a heavily-adorned gold piano was featured in the background.
The featured instrument was made by Erard in 1856. This is a nod to Queen Victoria who reigned at the time and was passionate about music as well. Her appreciation for music was reflected by the duets she would play with her husband.
How Has Queen Elizabeth II Contributed to the Arts and Music?
There is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth II has contributed to the arts and music during her reign. She holds two honorary music degrees, including a Bachelor of Music from the University of London, as well as a Doctor of Music from the University of Wales. These were both awarded before she ascended the throne and showed her passion and knowledge of the world of music and arts.
The Queen also presented the Queen Mother with an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Royal College of Music in 1973. This shows that not only does she have her own great appreciation for music, but she has inherited this appreciation for music from her family and will continue to recognize her musical heritage.
The Queen made history by appointing the first female Master of the Queen's Music. Judith Weir, a Scottish composer, was appointed as the first female in 2014. This was groundbreaking not only for the world of musicians but for the continuing feminist movement that calls for the recognition and equality of women in all roles in society.
The Queen's Music Medal Award has repeatedly helped musicians receive the recognition that they deserve year after year. By appointing this award, the Queen continues to help renowned musicians build their careers and establish a name for themselves. In the cutthroat, competitive world of musicians, earning an award such as this one can dramatically boost a musician's career and job security.
The Royal Family's website states: “The purpose of this award is to raise the general profile of music within the UK and to reward individuals who have had a major influence on the musical life of the nation.”
Additionally, the Queen brings recognition to talented musicians by including them in the Queen's Birthday Honors List. She has also opened several concert music halls and attends many classical concerts as a high-profile guest.
The Queen's support for the music industry extends to her continuous support of military bands and orchestras. These bands and orchestras offer support and job security to hundreds of talented musicians throughout the UK.
Final Thoughts: How Has Queen Elizabeth II Contributed to the Arts and Music?
Queen Elizabeth II's contributions to the arts and music are undeniable. Given that she was raised with an appreciation for music, working closely with talented musicians – even from a young age – and receiving in-depth education regarding the history and culture of music and arts, it is a given that Queen Elizabeth II would strive to contribute heavily to the arts and music, and she has certainly done so.
Not only does she help musicians establish a name for themselves by placing them on her Honor's List and granting them awards, she also provides job security and stability for musicians by creating hundreds of jobs through the military bands and orchestras, and contributing to fundraisers that support the well-being of musicians. Queen Elizabeth II's impact on the arts and music will forever be remembered as a notable aspect of her 70+ year reign.