HM Queen Elizabeth II was an incredible figure. An inspiration to us all. For many years, her support of Chetham’s, and the support of our patron HRH Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, has meant the world to us.
At Chetham’s we are marking this period of national mourning. Our students and staff will be contributing to the Book of Condolences at Manchester Cathedral. Our students and staff will also be reflecting on Her Majesty’s contributions in our next assembly and in our pastoral time. At The Stoller Hall, all events will begin with the national anthem or a minute’s silence, allowing our audiences to join us in a mark of respect.
We have been deeply moved by the recollections of colleagues and students, past and present, who have met Her Majesty in recent years. As part of our national commemorations, we are looking back on those recent visits, the joy they brought to our students and the importance of those contributions to our Chetham’s community today.
On 1 December 1994, HM Queen Elizabeth II visited Chetham’s to open the newly built New College House building. 1994 marked 25 years of Chetham’s as a specialist music school after having been an all-boys grammar school for several years; the opening of a new girl’s boarding house was therefore a momentous achievement for the school.
The new accommodation block was part of a £2.5 million redevelopment programme at Chetham’s, which also included the refurbishment of classrooms and practice rooms.
Her Majesty met numerous Chetham’s students, many of whom were dressed in the traditional Tudor uniform, both outside on the school yard and inside the new boarding house. For many of these students, this day lives in their memories as a wonderful day filled with excitement and anticipation.
A photo of HM Queen Elizabeth II opening the new boarding house can still be found hanging on the walls of New College House today, as well as the plaque commemorating the official opening, paying testament to how special this occasion was to all involved.
On 5 April 2007, Her Majesty visited Chetham’s as part of a visit to Manchester Cathedral for the Royal Maundy Thursday service.
The Royal Maundy is an ancient tradition observed by the Royal family in which the ruler visits a Cathedral or Abbey to give gifts to local people who have contributed to their community and church. Early in her reign, HM Queen Elizabeth II decided that the Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, so she travelled to a different city each year for each service; in 2007, Manchester was the chosen Cathedral for the service, a great honour for the city.
Due to the historic connection of Chetham’s with the Cathedral, not to mention the proximity, a visit to Chetham’s was added to The Queen’s itinerary for the day. The service took place during the school’s Easter holiday, so not very many students were involved in proceedings, although a few local students came dressed in the traditional Tudor uniform to mark the occasion. Her Majesty, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, attended a reception in the Baronial Hall following the service, before heading onward to Manchester Town Hall for lunch with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress.
This was the last time HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the Chetham’s site.
On 23 March 2012, HM Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Manchester for a day touring the city opening new hospitals on the Manchester Royal Infirmary site, officially opening the MediaCityUK development in Salford Quays, and starting a Sports Relief Mile Fun Run.
This was a day filled with music from several Manchester arts organisations, kicked off by students from Chetham’s. As she made her way off the platform and towards the station exit, the Chetham’s saxophone choir provided her first musical experience of the day. She was greeted by Director of Music, Stephen Threlfall, who invited her to listen to the ensemble of young saxophonists, aged 12 to 18, play before making her way out of the station.
Later in the day she would hear music from the Royal Northern College of Music, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Salford Family Orchestra.
On 14 November 2013, HM Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Manchester once again to take a tour of the Co-op’s new eco-friendly headquarters before visiting The Factory Youth Zone in Harpurhey.
Their day in Manchester began with their arrival on the Royal Train into Manchester Piccadilly station, where large crowds waited to greet her. She was met by an ensemble of Brass players from Chetham’s on the platform, overseen by Head of Brass David Chatterton. This music continued as she walked down the platform towards the groups of well-wishers awaiting her.
In July 2021, HM Queen Elizabeth II visited Manchester Cathedral to unveil a plaque in honour of its 600th anniversary. The ceremony included singing from our very own Chetham’s choristers, alongside music from the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the ceremony had to be held outside but HM The Queen herself commented on how wonderful the singing sounded outside.
We are wishing all the best to the incoming HM King Charles III, who himself is of course not a stranger to Chetham’s…
On 14 November 2002, Prince Charles visited Chetham’s as part of its 350th Anniversary celebrations of its incorporation as a school in 1653.
During his visit, the Prince was met by students in the Whiteley Hall, who proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to the Royal visitor. Unbeknownst to Chetham’s staff, the 6 Barbershop singers, dressed up with straw boaters, had changed the lyrics to fit in his full name – Charles Philip Arthur George.
Director of Music Stephen Threlfall commented at the time: “I know they’ve been practising for a while but we had no idea that they had changed the words. Happily, it went down very well and the Prince seemed to find it very amusing that they managed to get all his names when singing happy birthday.”
Our thoughts are with our Royal Patron, HRH Prince Edward, and all the Royal Family, during this period of national mourning.