The London Philharmonic Orchestra will be on the final barge in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June this year, performing a programme of twentieth century music linked to landmarks along the Thames. David Parry is the brave landlubber who’s taken up the challenge of conducting the performance…
Why do you think the LPO asked you to conduct this event?
I do a lot of work with the LPO – recordings, concerts, concert performance of operas and very varied repertoire so I think Timothy Walker, the LPO’s artistic director, thought that I’d be able to deal with any kind of contingency and also that make it fun for everybody. We’re going to be in quite a cramped barge so I’m going to have to jolly everyone along.
It’s certainly going to present some unusual difficulties…
The main difficulty is going to be the space which is obviously nothing like a concert hall. But that’s fine, you just have to get used to a very low ceiling – and the orchestra are used to the pit at Glyndebourne Festival, so they’ll be fine – they’re very adaptable. The other difficulty is timing – we’ve put together a programme in which most of the pieces are associated with the landmarks we go past, so timing is of the essence. If you get behind schedule that’s a real problem, if you’re early it doesn’t matter, you can just wait – but if you’re late you’re trying to catch up all the time, I’ll have someone whispering in my ear ‘Faster, David, faster!’
How are the people watching on the banks actually going to hear the music?
There’s going to be a huge sound system on board to get the music to the banks as we go along. We’ve actually had a trial run with some of the young players who are associated with the LPO, going up and down the Thames and making sure we could be heard.
How did you come up with programme?
Tim Walker and I worked on it together. It’s mainly British music from 1930 and the rest of the 20th century – a very eclectic mix. We started off just thinking of pieces we might like to do, and then Tim came up with the idea of matching them to landmarks. Most of them were fairly obvious – like the James Bond theme as we pass the MI6 building – and then we thought of things like the Henry V music by Walton for when we go past the Globe.
Music performed on boats is nothing new, of course – how much will you be thinking about the echoes of celebrations and extravaganzas of the past while you perform?
Not at all. In a way, the flotilla looks both to the past (Handel’s Water Music is an obvious exapmple) but also to the future. The river kind of died in the 20th century as a focus for London, and it’s been recently revived – there’s much more passenger traffic on the river and there’s been a rejuvenation of the South Bank. So having a big celebration on the river isn’t just nostalgic, it’s also forward looking. I think it’s a charming way of celebrating the Queen’s reign and it’ll be great fun for everybody – including those of us who are in it.
‘Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant – The Official CD’, performed by the LPO and David Parry is available now from John Lewis and Waitrose. The disc will be on general release from 6 June.