On May 19, 2018, nearly 1.9 billion people tuned in to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange vows during one of the most highly-anticipated weddings of the year and one of the biggest televised events of all time. From King Charles escorting the bride down the aisle to Bishop Michael Bruce Curry quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon, the royal couple’s ceremony was filled with touching moments. Another highlight that created the perfect backdrop for the event was the music. The talent behind the tunes? The Lay Clerks of St. George’s Chapel choir.
Simon Whiteley, one of the choir members and the founder of a subset vocal sextet called The Queen’s Six, recalls the experience in an interview with People, which was published on February 14, 2023. “All of these events are kind of like a whirlwind,” he admits. “Harry and Meghan’s wedding was like being an extra in a fairy tale. It was like a total dream and just amazing to have been a part of such a really very happy occasion.” It all started after the royal family contacted the music director, James Vivian. Once they got the gig, the musical group spent a lot of time getting ready for the performance. “We then spend the intervening time preparing and practicing and rehearsing and panicking, and, you know, all the rest of it, and then just hope everything goes without a hitch on the day—which it seemed to, from our perspective,” Whiteley recalls.
Some of the choir members have also performed at other noteworthy royal events, such as Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II’s funerals. Whiteley says Philip’s funeral “was something that was a truly historic occasion, especially given the circumstances,” referring to the fact that the event took place over the pandemic. The late monarch’s service on September 19, 2022 was another memorable gig for Whiteley. “The weight of the history of the occasion was amazing,” he expresses. “It was just an incredible thing to be a part of and something I don’t think any of us will ever forget.” Although he didn’t reveal any details on interactions with the royal family members, the singer shares that singing at the funeral was “such a huge pleasure,” adding that “She was an absolutely incredible woman.”
The musical ensemble lives and works at Windsor Castle, so the participants have a unique perspective on royal events. “It’s hard to describe until you kind of see it, but it’s amazing, especially when you have the weeks leading up to those major events,” says Nick Madden, a member of The Queen’s Six. “Basically, the castle gets surrounded by the world’s media, and getting in and out becomes really difficult. It is your everyday life. You do become part of the place. That’s sort of one of the beauties of this job—you slot yourself into a tradition, which has been going for such a long time, and you play your part.” Although Madden admits that living at the castle and performing for the royals can be overwhelming, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I wouldn’t change it,” he shares. “It’s an amazing life opportunity.”
At Harry and Meghan’s ceremony, another musical group also performed: gospel choir Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir. Before the couple traded vows, they listened to the choir’s rendition of “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. In Harry & Meghan, the couple's Netflix docuseries, the duke of Sussex said King Charles helped arrange the performance. “There wasn’t too much pushback,” Harry added. Then, closer to the end of the wedding, 19-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason played a solo on his cello, which was a direct request from Meghan, according to People. After the ceremony, Harry and Meghan walked toward their carriage to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine” by Etta James.