In the private grounds of Windsor Castle, thousands of moving parts have been carefully pieced together to create A Gallop Through History, part of the queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebration. Hundreds of horses, actors, presenters, artists, and musicians from around the world will come togethe, performing to a soundtrack written especially for the event by prolific Jewish composer Debbie Wiseman.
Wiseman is no stranger to high-profile royal events, having composed music for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012, the Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration in 2016, the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2019, and many more. Now she’s taking on the role of musical director for the event due to be attended by the Queen herself.
“There’s a little bit of history in there, it’s full of humour,” Wiseman tells me. “It’s a whole new show and it’s very different to the others in that it tells the story of Elizabeth the First through to our present day Queen Elizabeth.”
The dress rehearsal for the event (Photo: Platinum Jubilee Celebration / Peter Nixon. )
This has been Wiseman’s brainchild for the last year; she will be conducting a 75-piece orchestra through four acts and over 20 individual elements over the course of the show. “It’s not just traditional music that you might expect at something like this. There’s a kind of Last Night of the Proms feel to the finale.”
The event, “will really show off what we in the country do best, and that’s putting on these big shows with lots of humour, pomp, pageantry, and celebration of our monarch,”
Wiseman, 59, who lives in north London has spoken in the past of her “Jewish work ethic”. She’s probably best known for her film music, for movies as varied as Wolf Hall, Land Girls and Lesbian Vampire Killers. But this, she says was an entirely different way of composing: “When I write a film score, I have everything laid out in front of me and the timing is very specific. But with a live event, it’s very different because there’s a lot of different people involved.”
Plans are in place for all scenarios: “Things don’t always go to plan, and things can get delayed, or maybe one of the horses doesn’t want to come on at a particular moment. And so, there’s all sorts of little trickery, what they call ‘belt and braces music’ if things get delayed, go wrong, or anything that is changing on the spur of the moment. There’s a lot of different kinds of techniques that you have to use when you’re writing a score for this sort of event.”
Rehearsals have been taking place all week, with the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday ahead of four shows, culminating in the televised performance in the presence of the Queen on Sunday: “We’re hoping that the Queen will love it. It’s full of everything she loves; her horses and her ponies, and everything has been done with a very keen eye to make sure that she loves every moment of it,”says Wiseman.
“And if the audience loves it as well, then we’ve definitely done a good job. I can guarantee that they’re in for a treat and a spectacle, there’s absolutely no doubt.”