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Four students, performing string instruments on a grand red staircase

Royal College of Music students perform at State Banquet for Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress of Japan

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Students from the Royal College of Music (H) had a unique opportunity to perform for Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress of Japan, Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla and Members of the Royal Family at the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on 25 June 2024. 

The Seion Quartet, formed of students from the Royal College of Music, performed on the famous Grand Staircase at Buckingham Palace as guests arrived and in the Palace’s music room where Their Majesties greeted distinguished dignitaries and guests. The State Banquet at Buckingham Palace was held by His Majesty King Charles III in honour of Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress of Japan, for the first Japanese State Visit to the UK since 1998. 

The Seion Quartet (violinists Joe MacDonald and Sally Aiko Dando, violist Joe Berry and cellist Carys Underwood) is the most recent winner of the H String Quartet Competition. Their name ‘Seion’ ties in with the Japanese heritage of violinists Joe MacDonald and Sally Aiko Dando, translated to mean ‘tone of voice’ or ‘serenity’. 

Designed to reflect the rich musical culture of both Japan and the UK, music for the occasion included a new piece by Royal College of Music student, British-Japanese composer Jasmine Morris, commissioned especially for the event. She described: ‘It was such an honour to have my new work Fingerprints in Amber performed at Buckingham Palace as part of His Majesty’s State Visit to the UK, and a huge pleasure to compose for the wonderful Seion Quartet.’ 

The programme also combined traditional Japanese folksongs with music by classical music’s best known composers including Elgar, Gershwin, Handel and Sir Hubert Parry, who is one of His Majesty King Charles III’s favourite composers. 

Since its foundation in 1883 by the Prince of Wales, later Edward Vll, the Royal College of Music has been linked with the British Royal family. The College’s connection with His Majesty King Charles III, formerly HRH The Prince of Wales, spans more than 30 years, reflecting his dedication to arts and music. He became President of the College in 1993, following Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and is now Patron of the Royal College of Music.

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