The impression was immediate. The music was a reflection of the Scottish mountains through which I was driving – big, bold, imposing and unforgettable. It confronted my hearing in the grand manner of the Scandinavian symphonies of Anton Bruckner and the Germanic orchestral music of Richard Strauss.
Whilst I failed to comprehend all that was said by the presenter immediately after the music finished, I caught sufficient of the information conveyed to realize that the music was somehow related to the subject of “queen”.
I decided to follow-up and research the music when I returned home. This process enabled me to discover that the music that had made such an impression on me was a symphonic composition based on the music of Freddie Mercury and Queen. How glad I was to pursue my musical inclinations.
I purchased the CD/DVD of the music as soon as I was able and, with subsequent and repeated hearings, the piece has proved itself to be the personal musical surprise of recent years. It is a symphonic composition that shows to me that the Romantic Tradition in music is alive and well!!
Not that all of the music in the symphony is quite like that described above – big, bold and beautiful. There are a number of quieter, more subtle and subdued passages that are appreciated by the musical taste buds much in the same way that the taste palate responds to a gracefully matured wine. So too, it should be remembered that between the mountains there are valleys and, in the case of the Scottish glens, places that are still and quiet, as calm and mysterious as the deep and enchanting lochs they often harbour.
There is no questioning, however, that Tolga Kashif, the London born composer of the “Queen Symphony”, has pieced together the original music of Freddie Mercury and Queen to present a most impressive musical offering, music that “inherently contains the language of the modern classical genre.”
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays the piece as if to the manner born, indeed, as if the music were an integral part of the discography of classical music and of concert scheduling – both of which I would wish the music to become. The sophistication of the orchestra is equal to the task of extracting, indeed reinventing, full measure of the original essence of the music composed by Queen. Both the music and its orchestral rendition are most distinguished.
Listeners to this music should refrain from trying too hard to identify all of the original Queen songs used by the composer, as this could detract from an appreciation of the way in which the various tunes have been transformed, with various choirs and soloist musicians, into a more classical character and consistency.
However, some songs are more identifiable than others and aficionados of Queen’s music will have little difficulty in recognizing such gems as Radio Gaga, The Show Must Go On, We are the Champions, Killer Queen, We will Rock You and, of course, the incomparable Bohemian Rhapsody.
There was some personal disappointment in that Tolga Kashif., the composer-organizer of the music and the orchestra’s director, did not include that most poignant of pieces The Days of Our Lives in his composition. The tune would have made a beautiful and most appropriate adagio, alongside that other sublime song Who Wants to Live Forever (which is included on the CD).
So too, it is pity that room could not be found for such Queen classics as that outstanding hit Somebody to Love and the yearning ballad I Want to be Free. When it comes to Queen’s music there can never be “too much of a good thing”, so perhaps a second composition is to be hoped for! Still, the composer obviously feels “no need to use whole songs, or even whole melodies, unless he feels like it at any one moment.” He paints his “own musical pictures” and “he takes the music of Queen to new places.” Tolga Kashif has “a unique view of and a new dream for this music.”
The CD version of this recording comes singularly or as a special edition which includes the DVD of the symphony’s performance. Both facilities offer a most engaging and successful synthesis of Queen’s outstanding music, as well as excellent value for money.
On the back cover of the case containing the discs Queen’s Brian May states the following: Imagine a composer of the imagination and daring of a Tchaikovsky, a Holst or a Mussorgsky. Imagine him let loose with the entire Queen catalogue of melodies, atmospheres and textures, and a vast orchestra and a huge choir. Then you’ll be close to imagining where this work begins. This is something monumental and quite outrageous.
Since producing this recording the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has gone on to provide the orchestral backing for re-recordings of albums by, amongst others, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Genesis and Roy Orbison. Each of these has the original singer(s) as well as the re-recorded backing music.
The recording of the music from the Queen songs by Tolga Kashif and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is, however, the only attempt at composing a genuine piece of symphonic music from the music accompaniments to popular songs. The undertaking has been highly successful and is hugely enjoyable.
If ever the old saying “Old wine in new wineskins” could be given a fitting context it is the Tolga Kashif and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of The Queen Symphony – a symphony in six movements inspired by the music of QUEEN. This is music appropriate to any and all of the days of our lives!
In the previous article (see: A right-royal carve-up…) I referred to the plethora of television programmes that rehearsed the lives of the British monarch in particular and the royal lineage in general.
I made the comment that an outcome of the seemingly constant barrage of historical movies, television series and popular literature serve the purpose of inuring the public through a process of constantly thrusting the royals into their faces. It might also be that the opposite is true. These productions serve to promote both the traditional roles and contemporary disguises of the royals in order to maintain their privileged and un-earned status in society – the continuation of what could be termed the “Windsor’s false consciousness”.
Reviewing that article brought to my mind a piece published a number of years ago in the blog of the British Republican Movement (britishrepublicanblog.org). The said article was written following the birth of George (born 22 July, 2013), the first child of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and William, Duke of Cambridge. The title of the article was: Every child should be born equal. It was written by Zachary Adam Barker and, in part, what is written below reflects that article and its author.
The article began with a questions posed by a BBC Radio Bristol presenter, “Surely the birth of the third person in line to the throne can only be a good thing?” The question was, of course, in reference to George Windsor, and was asked as though it was a self-evident truth. In actual fact the birth of anyone is generally a good thing. The emergence of new persons into the world presents endless possibilities. What personalities will they display? What will be their role and function in life? Will they have a family? What will they become? What will be their contribution to human growth and development?
The above questions are applicable to babies born to members of the royal family as much as to any family. However, in the case of George Windsor and unlike the vast majority of the citizens of the British state, most of these questions had already been settled even before baby George emerged. The same may be said, though with a less-concerned voice, for his siblings, Charlotte and Louis.
The baby’s being, warts and all, will have been heavily filtered through the ruthless efficiency of the palace’s PR machine. Eventually the person that boy George is in the process of becoming, as “third in line to the throne”, will be required to be the progenitor of others in the royal line in order to ensure the continuity of the British monarchy. In due course, he could also become the British Head of State – whether desired or deserved, or otherwise.
All of this puts a hefty burden on the child that came into the world just a few years ago and entered that world through a route designed for all babies, regardless of wealth or privilege. It also automatically grades any other British child as unworthy of or unsuited to take on, or volunteer to take on, that burden when they come of age.
Perhaps what might be considered as the most objectionable aspect of the question: “Surely the birth of the third person in line to the throne can only be a good thing?” was what it implied about the state of British democracy. Are we so disillusioned with our democracy, and those who we elect to represent us, that we are ready to walk away from the ballot box and sell our souls and our labour for an idea that is the very antithesis of explicit rule by the people?
The idea of monarchy presents a contradictory picture of human nature. It implies that those elected can be nothing more than mere “common” human beings, while those in the royal line, those appointed to the ultimate non-elected and honorific roles, are gracious and noble, happy and glorious, virtuous and victorious – and with a longevity of carefully constructed and cultured lives to permit the expression of these personal and professional characteristics. It suggests that we can aspire to be only the second-class subjects of a monarch rather than the first-class citizens of a nation-state.
The monarchy is supposed to be an example to us all. Implied in this exemplary royal performance is that members of the extended royal family model what is to be expected of the “citizen class” of the nation. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the concept, the ideal, of “duty”.
Whether we speak of the “big society” or simple citizenship it seems that the ordinary people of the nation are expected to do their duty and to be personally satisfied with doing so, with, perhaps, the incentive of receiving a royal honour on such occasions as the celebration of the reigning monarch’s birthday. Yet this idealism is offset by the fact that the roles and duties of the royals seem to be defined and transacted against a background of wealth, privilege and subtle political manoeuvring – hardly the situation-in-life of ordinary people!
It is heartening to consider, however, that what is described above paves the way for the expression and promotion of democratic discontent.
The existence of the British monarchy carries with it the message that our hard fought democracy and its values may be considered as simply not worth fighting for or have the outcomes expected. The existence of the British monarchy and its staunchest supporters and beneficiaries, endeavours to persuade us that our individual and collective lives are enhanced by the retention of and dependence on those whom history has privileged and empowered to rule – directly or otherwise, by accident or design. We tend to forget, however, that we have a choice in the matter.
Whilst it is not unusual to suspect elected Members of Parliament of fraudulent expense claims and other forms of self-aggrandisement, we seem to consider that occupants of and heirs to the throne – with suspect tax arrangements and a history of lobbying of Parliament – are assumed to be above such illicit practices. Expense anomalies for MPs are pounced on, whilst public expenditure on private royal transportation and some royal wedding expenses, including the cost of excessive amounts of security, not to mention the exorbitant and spiralling cost of maintaining a monarchical system, are shrugged off.
This system speaks ill of human possibility and counts against the continuation of an outdated and undemocratic monarchical system.
It is accepted that all people are corruptible – the high and the mighty, the meek and the lowly, those elected and the unelected. But integrity and freedom are worth fighting for. As a great man once said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Vigilance and action are required for the realization of a genuine democracy, one that includes the eradication of the system of inherited wealth, privilege and social esteem known as monarchy – and a “royal family” as its constitutional exemplars.
Is every child born equal? Or, are there some more equal than others? If so, then why? Surely, it remains true and self-evident, that all human beings are born equal and should be treated as such.