Commonwealth Stars Come Out for the Queen
Photography by Andrew Dunsmore
(Reuters) – The Queen led a royal delegation in observance of Commonwealth Day in London’s Westminster Abbey on Monday, featuring performances by musicians including Canadian Rufus Wainwright and South Africa’s Hugh Masekela.
Wearing a pink dress and matching pink hat, the Queen was accompanied by Prince Charles in a navy suit and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
In one of the first events on her 60th diamond jubilee calendar, the queen spoke in a pre-recorded address about the importance of cultural connections in the Commonwealth of Nations.
“This year, our Commonwealth focus seeks to explore how we can share and strengthen the bond of Commonwealth citizenship we already enjoy by using our cultural connections to help bring us even closer together, as family and friends across the globe.”
Formed of 54 sovereign states, the Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organisation consisting mostly of states that were part of the British Empire. The queen is still head of state for some of them, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Canadian singer Rufus Wainwright was one of the first performers, playing the piano and singing a soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
“It’s a great honour, it’s wonderful to be here,” he told Reuters after the service.
“I need to get more bookings in Africa now!” he added jokingly.
Later on, 72-year-old South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela wowed the assembled crowd with a joyful musical performance that thundered through the nave of Westminster Abbey.
At one point, he brought smiles to the bashful well-mannered audience by exhorting them to sing with him in a blaring call and response of chanting and howling.
Primatologist Jane Goodall, famous for her work studying the social interactions of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania, was the keynote speaker of the service.
After welcoming the attendees with a whooping chimpanzee greeting call, she explained how the Commonwealth had made a difference to her.
“It was connections between England and Kenya that first enabled me to achieve my childhood dream when I sailed from England in 1957. It was connections with Kenya and Tanzania that enabled me start my studies…that I continue today,” she said.
Other performances included the Afro-Caribbean fusion dance of the Descarga Dance Company, and a reading by Scottish poet Liz Lochhead.
(Reporting By Ethan Bilby, editing by Paul Casciato)