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NPR Arts & Life

Charlotte Symphony Music Director On Conducting Royal Weddings: Past, Future

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Charlotte Symphony and Mark Jones / Wikimedia Commons
Charlotte Symphony Music Director Christopher Warren-Green (left photo), Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (right photo)

On May 19th, the British people will welcome a new princess into the royal family. The ceremony, which has a guest count of about 600 people, is set to take place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Charlotte Symphony Music Director Christopher Warren-Green will be conducting the ceremony orchestra.

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Credit Jack Pease / Wikimedia Commons
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Jack Pease / Wikimedia Commons
The inside of St. Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England.

This isn’t his first royal rodeo. He’s also the principal conductor of the London Chamber Orchestra. 

"This is actually my third royal wedding, so I was really surprised to get the call and delighted," Warren-Green said. "I’m very excited about it. 

He conducted the orchestra at Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, the now Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Charles's wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall. Warren-Green said as far the music goes, timing is everything. 

"I think most people would agree that weddings can be problematic and a Royal wedding is complicated – it’s complex," Warren-Green said. 

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Credit Mark Jones / Flickr
From left to right: Prince William, The Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle (soon to be Duchess of Sussex) and Prince Harry.

The orchestra has to know exactly when to start, stop, slow down or speed up according to the pace of the ceremony. He recounted conducting the Crown Imperial at William and Kate’s wedding. 

"It’s a coronation anthem, but the queen said, 'it doesn’t matter,' " Warren-Green said. "They wanted it." 

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He said the couple walked out of the ceremony to the song and following tradition, bowed before the Queen on their way out. According to Warren-Green, the orchestra had to time the music just right so it would change when William and Kate paid their respects to the Queen. 

"In Crown Imperial, it starts with this wonderful march. But then it comes down to this beautiful hymn come anthem come choral," he said. "And at the very moment they approached the Queen for the bow and curtsey, we’d got to that moment." 

But like any wedding, Warren-Green said there’s the occasional hitch. Like losing the Queen at Prince Charles’s wedding.

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Credit Wikimedia Commons
Queen Elizabeth II of England

"I was looking into the congregation and to the private secretary and mouthing, 'where’s the Queen?' to the congregation and to the private secretary," he said, "To which I was getting, 'I don’t know.' ” 

He said the Queen just decided to come in through another door - a small glitch, but a heart-stopping moment for Warren-Green. But being the orchestra conductor does come with perks, like knowing the royal family. He said he's known Princes William and Harry since they were young.

"When they were very tiny, I’d run into them at Buckingham Palace," Warren-Green said. "So I’ve known them almost all their lives. Not the same relationship I have with the Prince of Wales."

He said he talks with Prince Charles often because they share a deep love of music. Prince Charles wrote him a congratulations letter when he became the Charlotte Symphony conductor. Warren-Green said he hopes the King-to-be will one day hop the pond for one of his shows. 

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Credit Charlotte Symphony
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Charlotte Symphony
Prince Charles (left) with Christopher Warren-Green (right)

But as far as his relationship with the newest princess-to-be: "I’ve not met Meghan Markle, but I’ve been watching 'Suits,' " Warren-Green said. 

Meghan Markle plays a paralegal on the USA Network hit show. 

Warren-Green said he could’ve never imagined rubbing elbows with royals. 

"I have no aristocratic blood whatsoever. I come from a purely working-class family. I’ve been very lucky," Warren-Green said. "Certainly my grandfather, who was a coal miner, would have never dreamt that I would be doing so many royal occasions at the invitation of the future king."

He says he has music to thank for his relationship with the royal family.

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Credit USA Network
'Suits' characters Mike Ross, played by Patrick J. Adams, and Rachel Zane, played by Meghan Markle.

When it comes to selecting the music for the upcoming wedding, Warren-Green said he has some control, but it’s mostly up to the bride and her to-be father-in-law. He said he does plan to change things up a bit.

"I think it’s safe for me to say without a doubt we will have an American slant to this wedding – of course," Warren-Green said. 

When asked if he could share more specifics, he replied with a smile:

"I can, but then I’d have to kill you."

It’s safe to say, I didn’t press him further. To find out if Meghan Markle will walk down the aisle to the National Anthem, you’ll have to tune into the ceremony, which will be broadcasted on the BBC and other major networks. 

Video: Christopher Warren-Green interview before conducting Prince William and Kate's wedding.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izrJS5Kvhos

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