It was rather wonderful to board a very basic suburban train at Vauxhall and find myself half an hour later in the romantic and perfectly-situated destination of Hampton Court. After King Henry VIII started to build this beautiful Palace 500 years ago (that’s why I was visiting – to discuss new music to commemorate this anniversary) just about every important royal event happened on this spot, until King George II moved out in the mid 18th century. It was never afterwards used as a royal residence, although Queen Victoria later opened it up as a tourist destination, for which many thanks to her. Walking round an unparalleled set of locations, we imagined Shakespeare performing as an actor in the Great Hall, while at the same moment elsewhere in the building King James VI and I was in discussion with Church of England authorities about a new translation of the bible.
Meeting Michele Price, the manager of the Choral Foundation at the Chapel Royal was heartwarming – because her very successful organisation has attracted a steady stream of enthusiastic choirboys who attend a wide range of local schools, and receive free music lessons in addition to choir practice after their school day is over. My visit was also helpfully informative – because up till now, I’ve been very confused about who the ‘Chapel Royal’ are. I now know there are three Chapel Royal Choirs. The other two are at St James’ Palace (where the choirboys, who all attend the City of London School, wear instantly recognisable threequarter-length red coats) and the Tower of London, where there is an adult choir, ‘only’ 50 years old.