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RG Jones on Royal Duty

We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. RG Jones offer condolences to the Royal family.

The sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the welcoming of a new king is an opportunity to remember the extensive history this company has with the British royal family.

His Majesty The King was proclaimed at the Accession Council on Saturday 10th September and RG Jones were on duty for rehearsals from Friday at The Royal Exchange with further proclamations continuing into Sunday.

Between Investitures, State Visits and even The Opening of the Elephants Enclosure at the Zoo, in recent times the most memorable has been CHOGM (The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in April 2018; bringing leaders of Commonwealth countries together in London to discuss global issues such as climate change and human rights; focused on delivering four outcomes under the theme of working ‘towards a common future’.  This significant event was spread across some of the most prestigious venues in London, from City of London, Guildhall, The Mansion House and Buckingham Palace where, five years before it had also been our great honour to provide the sound system for the Coronation Festival. This was a spectacular event held in the back garden of Buckingham Palace, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the coronation.  It is hard to imagine a more sensitive site on which to install a large stage and all the technical infrastructure that goes with it, especially when the backstage area was literally up against the wall of the palace!

This unique event featured a very broad range of acts – Katie Melua, The Feeling, English National Ballet, Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, The Dhol Foundation, Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, Sylvia Young Theatre School all held together by the amazing National Youth Orchestra proved a significant challenge to the team, some of whom managed to get lost in the palace gardens after a late shift, much to the concern of the palace security.

Sound provision for any event where Her Majesty The Queen was in attendance required a sensitive touch.  She was renowned for not liking loud music, but to engage with and enjoy a performance was very important for her.  Endless Royal Variety Performances and Royal Galas in many of the country’s best-known theatres saw her seated in the Royal Box, invariably positioned very close to the proscenium arch where very often there would be a significant chunk of high-powered loudspeakers.  This would be the only place where these could go to enable decent coverage for the rest of the auditorium.  A tricky one, that would involve very careful signal matrixing and level balancing from one act to the next.

Some very significant public events saw RG’s providing sound services on some difficult sites.  Particularly memorable was the opening of the Thames Barrier in 1984.  Her Majesty cut the tape that signified the completion of one of the most challenging civil engineering projects yet seen – holding back the North Sea from the nation’s capital city.  The structure itself is still innovative and incredible to behold, but the lasting memory of the event was just how incredibly cold it was, stuck up a scaffold tower as the wind screamed in from the river.  The commentator for the event however had a solution in the form of a flask of brandy which he willingly shared with the sound crew, which was just as well as he’d obviously had a couple of sharpeners before his arrival!

1986 saw the culmination of a long association with Lloyd’s of London and their trading floor in Lime Street in the City of London.  RG’s had for some time been providing temporary sound systems on the trading floor of the 1950’s building, which had served as the global hub of the insurance industry for over 30 years but had become too small and over-crowded. Architect Sir Richard Rogers was commissioned to design a new building on an adjacent site, and RG’s were involved from start to finish, proving audio for the foundation laying, topping out and eventual opening by Her Majesty The Queen, all the while maintaining and running systems for the trading floor in the old building.

The opening ceremony was difficult for various reasons. Primarily we were not allowed to work in the building during business hours, so overnight was the plan.  The system to be installed had to be effective yet discreet, but infrastructure for rigging amounted to a series of M10 bolt sockets set into the concrete ceiling modules, and very little else.  Rogers’ design brief meant that the interior was uncluttered by structural elements and services, all of which were outside, leaving a clear, future-proof space for expansion.

Many long nights were spent installing a distributed system at height, utilising custom metalwork designed specifically for the job. Being in this landmark building at night was a strange experience – completely deserted and temptation was such that, during a break, a couple of engineers tried out the scenic external elevators.  Exciting, until one of them broke down, leaving Simon Honywill and Chris Long stuck 15 storeys up in a glass lift that seemed determined to kill them by smashing up against its end stops before dropping a few feet to a point between floors!  Eventually, two very scared young men managed to escape and descend via more conventional means.  Mainly eyebrows were raised, especially as the rest of the crew were busy rigging. Only Simon and Chris know the real truth!

As Queen, one is expected to launch the occasional ship, and one of the larger amongst the many was P&O’s Oriana, christened by Her Majesty in 1995 at Southampton Docks.  RG’s were asked to provide the sound systems to convey the speeches to several thousand on the windy dockside, and as an added bonus, the team got to stay on board the luxury cruise liner for a few nights and take part in a short shakedown cruise, where the ship’s systems are tested to the full by taking on non-paying passengers.

The job itself was one thing, but the shakedown cruise another altogether. The RG’s team (Honywill, Armstrong, Ekers and Williamson) found themselves at sea aboard a top end liner. This unique and challenging event was also not without it’s side order of humorous memories; Mark Armstrong was found singing along to a Tina Turner tribute act, until he suddenly realised Tina was not only a man, but also his ex-partner.  Andrew Williamson, now of course one of RG’s esteemed directors, was dressed for dinner in black tie (as we all were) but was surprised to suddenly find himself in a jacuzzi, still in his tuxedo.  How this all happened was a mystery – sort of – but there are rumours.

But most importantly, Her Majesty successfully named the great ship, everyone heard every word she said, and Oriana sailed off over the horizon, it was a magnificent sight.

The number of royal events where Her Majesty has been heard through an RG Jones sound system are too many to mention here, suffice to say that the relationship with the Royal Household goes back a long way.  Under the new King, things will feel very different, but let’s hope they still sound as great as they have done throughout the extraordinary reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Every now and then, events that define the fabric of our time come along and grab the attention of the entire world, uniting people in respect. It has been our great privilege to work with The Queen and the Royal family on both happy and sad occasions, spanning back many decades.  Today, we pay tribute to a dearly loved monarch who dedicated her life to the service of her country. 


Category: General News

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