I must confess that I had never been inside the magnificent London church, St James's, Spanish Place until this week, when I followed up a rather mysterious invitation from the Royal Philharmonic Society to attend a concert there given by the French ensemble Le Concert Spirituel (under Wigmore Hall's management). A few months earlier, RPS had informed me by letter that I'd been awarded Honorary Membership of that great historical organisation. I did indeed feel very honoured, but then 'the trail went cold'.
Until days before the concert when it became evident that King Charles himself was going to attend the concert (including appropriately the four Handel Coronation Anthems plus the Dettingen Te Deum) and hand me the RPS membership certificate. This did actually happen - we're only just getting used to having a head of state who really enjoys classical music and coming to concerts. Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, whom I would say is classical music royalty herself, had written a beautiful citation, much appreciated by me, as it's an elusive skill which I've sometimes had to attempt on behalf of others.
And the concert? We all loved the full bodied French sound, and seated in the front row, it was a total treat to be swamped by the rich alto and tenor sections. Charismatic conductor Hervé Niquet was not going to be overawed by having an actual monarch sitting an elbow's length away. When presenter Ian Skelly (for BBC Radio 3) reminded us that we were in a Spanish church listening to French people singing music written by a German composer in praise of the British crown, you could feel a big European "amen" in the air from the cosmopolitan audience.