365 – When I played piano for the Queen
Of course, I didn’t really play piano for the Queen, any more than hundreds of thousands of people have done things for the Queen during her sixty years of being the Queen, or however you’re supposed to describe it.
So, it went like this. I arrived in Preston in time for a coach leaving at 8.30am, with the (award winning) UCLan Chamber Choir, to nip over to Burnley to what would appear to be a very posh sixth form college with a bit of UCLan tagged onto the side of it. No, I don’t get it either. I also don’t quite understand why that was the place the Queen decided to go to on her token visit to the Northwest, but that’s what happened. The big guns from the ‘proper’ campus were shipped in to make it good, obviously.
Before we went, we’d all been apparently security checked, we’d been given a special letter to print out and bring with us (or we wouldn’t be allowed in the building) and when we arrived some people had their bags checked. They decided not to bother checking the enormous flight case which had the piano in it (which may as well have been full of either Semtex or sawn off pump action shotguns. I don’t know whether there’s such a thing as a sawn off pump action shot gun but it sounds like the sort of thing which oughtn’t be allowed to hang out around Queenie).
With all this pseudo-security in place we arrived with a mere three hours to spare, and were surrounded by anxious looking people wearing lanyards, clearly wondering why they were there and what they were supposed to do, but they were anxious nonetheless. We waited, waited some more, warmed up, set up and waited some more. The short visit was planned down to the last second, yet Queenie managed to arrive ten minutes late, thereby making a mess of all that planning, and given we played an extra number because we thought she might come back the same way she went in, the whole map of her travels and all that planning was a little bit pointless.
So anyway, m’colleague had decided, in his infinite wisdom, that when the Queen was actually in the vicinity of the choir, that they would be singing an a capella number, so for a while it seemed that I’d come all this way to sit behind a piano whilst the Queen walked past. I’m not entirely sure I’d be allowed to put that one on my CV. Of course, I am skill and they’re nothing without me (joke) and the Queen walked straight past the award winning 28 piece choir and on through her travels. Only when she came back again, whilst I was then accompanying them, did she stop, chat to her little mate, watch for three or maybe four seconds, then move on. Of course if I hadn’t been playing I suspect she’d have ignored us again. I can only assume that she was talking to her little mate about booking me for a gig at Buck House sometime over the summer. Shit hot.
I’m joking. To be honest the whole thing was rather underwhelming. I don’t mind the royals – I’m pretty ambivalent to the lot of them, so I was neither excited nor whatever the opposite of that is, to know I’d be playing the piano and she’d be listening. She’s small, seemed happy enough and her husband is tall and seemed happy enough. I’m sure they’ve seen much the same thing hundreds if not thousands of times as they saw today in Burnley, but it was nice to see her close up in the flesh and at least I was doing what I do when she saw me. I trust she had a sufficiently painless time in ‘the north’ and is glad to be winging her way back down south as I write this.
It was never going to be a great story, but it’s my little diary entry for the day I didn’t quite meet the Queen, but she definitely did hear me play the piano.