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Wednesday 8 May 2013, 11:54
Cycling across Lambeth Bridge I can just about make out the top of the venue for today’s sneak preview of new BBC Two series David Starkey’s Music And Monarchy. I’m heading for Westminster Abbey, and I’m quite excited as I’ve never been inside the historic building before.
As I park up my bike just before 9.30am, tourists are already swarming around the impressive London landmark. Although I’m armed with a map, I realise I have no idea where I’m supposed to go and so am more than relieved when I notice a bright red BBC lanyard amongst the throng. It’s hanging round the neck of publicist Claire and she happily navigates me through the tour groups assembled in Dean’s Yard and deposits me safely at the Jerusalem Chamber.
With Claire I have the first of a number of conversations today that hint at how pleased Westminster Abbey is to be involved with the series. A lot of filming has taken place here, hence why staff at the Abbey were more than happy for today’s screening to be held in the building.
Reading through the press pack I was handed (whilst I was procuring a Bourbon biscuit), I learn that locations are an important aspect of this four-part series. Much effort has been made to film a staggering 40 pieces of music being performed in the venues they were originally composed for, giving viewers a unique chance to see how the architecture of the setting influenced the structure of the music. As well as Westminster, works have been recorded at Buckingham Palace, King’s College Cambridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. A selection of these recordings will be played in full on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune to tie-in with the series when it airs in July as part of a season of programmes celebrating the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Once settled in our seats, Commissioning Editor for BBC Music and Events, Jan Younghusband explains how the programme idea sprang from a passing conversation about Henry VIII and developed from there into David Starkey’s first authored television series for the BBC. She also mentions that King Henry IV died in the Jerusalem Chamber, which is a little discomforting.
Busts of Henry IV and Henry V flank the television screen, which is somewhat apt as the four episodes chronicle how the monarchy has shaped the history of British music from the reign of the aforementioned Henry V through to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. By way of introduction to the preview, David Starkey delivers an enthusiastic, fact-filled, whistle-stop tour of this timeline. As passionate as he is witty, he gives a sense of how music sheds so much light on the personalities of the kings and queens featured. This theme continues through the 45-minute screening of selected highlights, from the compositions of Henry V to the love story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.
If I’m honest, I am more a fan of the Sex Pistols version of God Save The Queen, but the stories in today’s preview have hooked me in and as I cycle past Buckingham Palace on my way back to White City I can’t help but look at it slightly differently.
Jen Macro is Digital Content Producer, About the BBC Website and Blog.
Tuesday 7 May 2013, 11:53
Thursday 9 May 2013, 16:07