What has King Charles done for classical music?
From early cello forays to today's wide range of patronages, the new monarch has always taken an active interest in music
What has Charles done for classical music?
King Charles III has been an active supporter of classical music and the arts throughout his lifetime. He serves as president or patron of a large range of musical ensembles, as we will see below.
Charles has also dabbled in music performance himself: he played the cello as a student, performing with the orchestra of Trinity College, Cambridge.
His Majesty has recalled practising Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in his bedroom, ahead of a performance with the college orchestra. He used the famous 1960s recording by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as his guide.
In 2019, in an interview for BBC Radio 3's Private Passions, Charles discussed the music that has influenced his life with presenter Michael Berkeley. His musical choices included Haydn's First Cello Concerto and - once again - Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
The monarch also has experience of singing in choirs. As a child at Gordonstoun School, Charles sang in the school choir - and also played trumpet in the orchestra.
He later sang with The Bach Choir, whom he now serves as president. His time with the choir included a 1978 performance of Handel’s Coronation Anthems in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The Bach Choir also performed at his 1981 wedding to Diana Spencer.
Prince Charles has been a vocal advocate of the arts for many years. During the COVID pandemic, he spoke publicly about the 'enormous importance' of orchestras and theatres in the UK. 'It's absolutely crucial that they come back twice as enthusiastic as before,' he told Classic FM in May 2020.
Which musical organisations does Charles serve as patron?
Here is just a selection of the many orchestras, choirs and organisations for which Charles serves as patron or president.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Charles took on the role of Royal Phil patron during 2021, the orchestra’s 75th anniversary year. That year also saw the appointment of Vasily Petrenko as the orchestra’s new music director.
Founded in 1876, the Bach Choir has two notable individuals at its top table. The choir's president is the choral composer John Rutter. Charles, meanwhile, has been patron since 2002. He also sang in the choir during the 1970s - and the Bach Choir performed at his wedding to Diana in 1981.
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)
The ABRSM delivers over 650,000 music exams and assessments every year in 93 countries. Charles serves as the Board's president.
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Charles has been patron of Wales' national symphony orchestra since 1993.
Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorus
Royal College of Music
Opened by royal charter in 1883, the Royal College of Music has trained some of the most important figures in classical music. Its distinguished list of alumni includes the composers Holst, Vaughan Williams and Britten.
Charles has been president since 1993, and has awarded fellowships, doctorates and honorary degrees others to the likes of Sarah Connolly, Antonio Pappano, Lang Lang, Christopher Hogwood and Alfie Boe.
Welsh National Opera
The WNO is a hugely important part of Wales' musical landscape. As Prince of Wales, Charles became patron in 1997.
English Chamber Orchestra and Music Society
One of his longest appointments, Charles has served as patron for the English Chamber Orchestra since 1977. The most recorded chamber orchestra in the world, the ECO has a discography of some 860 recordings of over 1,500 works by more than 400 composers.
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
For over two decades now, Charles has served as patron of this renowned conservatoire specialising in practical and performance-based training in music and drama.
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Another world-leading conservatoire of music, drama, dance, production and film, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is based in Glasgow.
Charles became a patron of Scotland's national ballet in 2009.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
This internationally celebrated chamber orchestra is made up of a unique collection of talented musicians who attract audiences of all ages.
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham's ballet company is one of the UK's five major ballet ensembles, recognised internationally for its excellence. Charles has served as president since 2003.
British Youth Opera
This leading training opera company helps budding singers, directors, designers and stage managers on their way to careers in opera. The company has enjoyed Charles' services as patron since 2000.
Live Music Now / Live Music Now Scotland
This organisation and its Scottish equivalent were founded by violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Ian Stoutzker in 1977, to bring live music to thousands across the UK. Charles is a patron of both organisations.
Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra
Since 2010, Charles has been a patron of the three Monteverdi ensembles: the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. John Eliot Gardiner is founder and artistic director of all three ensembles.
Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
Covent Garden's world-famous Royal Opera House leans heavily on its great orchestra and chorus, with their high standards across a diverse repertory.
Three Choirs Festival Association
The Three Choirs Festival is the oldest non-competitive classical music festival in the world, and divides its time between the elegant cathedral cities of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester. Charles has served as president of the Festival Association for more than two decades.
Main image: Prince Charles practices his cello at Trinity College Cambridge, whilst an undergraduate there. Ⓒ Getty Image
Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.