Music will act as a “golden thread of history, heritage and tradition” during the procession for the Queen’s state funeral, a former military music director has said.
On Monday, the Queen’s coffin will be taken from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey with senior members of the family expected to follow behind.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Graham Jones, former senior director of music for the Household Division, told the PA news agency that music will play an important role in proceedings.
During a 40-year career serving as a military musician and then director of music, Lt Col Jones was responsible for planning, co-ordinating and delivering the music for major state ceremonial events such as the funeral of the Queen Mother, the Queen’s birthday parade, and the Armistice Cenotaph Parade.
He said funeral marches by classical composers Beethoven, Chopin and Mendelssohn will be played on Monday, as they were during the funeral procession for Queen Victoria in 1901.
“Everything that we do in state ceremonial is born out of a golden thread of history, heritage and tradition,” he said.
“We are not making anything up. This has come through the past and so, if we go back to Queen Victoria’s funeral and the music that was played and performed there, that was Beethoven’s March, Chopin’s March – they were played repeatedly.
“And then we move forward to the three kings, with King George VI, and of course here we are today.”
Lt Col Jones said the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, the Queen’s first prime minister, had also featured music by those composers, adding: “And those are the marches that are going to be played this year for Her Majesty’s state procession through London.
“There’s no change. There’s no reason to change. It has worked perfectly well in the past.”
Lt Col Jones described music as a “powerful tool” that “unites people and sets the scene for true reflection”.
“Funeral marches in particular have a real knack of being able to do that, so I think you’ll find it all extremely poignant,” he said.
He suggested the funeral service inside Westminster Abbey could reflect the Queen’s personal taste in music, which was said to include musicals such as Oklahoma! and show tunes such as Cheek To Cheek performed by Fred Astaire.
Lt Col Jones said: “That’s a matter between church and monarch, to decide the service and service content, and I know there has been quite a little bit of rumblings in the media about Her Majesty’s top 10 favourite tunes and will any of those feature in the service.
“I never had any responsibility for that because, as I said, it’s between church and the monarchy to decide the content and structure of the funeral service.”
The former music director, who now works as a band trainer, lecturer and performer, also said that, for those involved in the parade, this is “probably the greatest honour and privilege that they will ever have in their musical career within the armed forces”.
He added: “And so it’s not an onerous duty at all – it’s a privilege and a pleasure.
“They will be doing everything they can to perform to the highest level possible on Monday when the eyes of the world are watching them.
“Trust me, not only are they going to be getting the music right – there will be an extra shine on the buttons, a bit more extra polish on the shoes, a bit of an extra press of the trousers, to make sure they’re immaculate, not only in performance but also in the visual look.
“It’s a big, big day for them and they will be doing everything they can to make it be the best it can possibly be.”