Commonwealth Observance Day

An Observance for Commonwealth Day 2015 was held at Westminster Abbey, London in the presence of HM The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Service was conducted by The Dean of

’16-year-old composer Thomas Carr meets The Queen after his composition ‘Maltugandata UK’ was performed by the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra and dancedigital during the Observance Day Service.’

On Monday March 8th and 9th 2015, groups of talented young musicians, dancers and singers from different cultural backgrounds took part in some very exciting, high-profile cultural events, organised by Westminster Abbey, The Royal Commonwealth Society, Morley College and The Commonwealth Resounds.

There were participants from many different regions of the UK, including Hertfordshire, Manchester, Bermondsey, London, Kent and Scotland – representing also a larger number of different cultural backgrounds from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Participating organisations and representatives included the Royal College of Music Junior Department, dancedigital, The Purcell School, Chetham’s School of Music, the Bermondsey Harris Academy and the Apollo Youth Choir.

Sunday 8th March

After a challenging day of rehearsals, The Commonwealth Resounds presented an enjoyable Gala Concert at Morley College. The programme included some of Morley’s spectacular Kathak dancers and Samba players, who captivated the audience, as well as two delightful, brand-new songs composed by groups of young people for the newly re-formed Commonwealth Festival Choir, and a wonderful new fanfare by young composer Max Bilbe from Chetham’s School of Music

Monday March 9th

Great excitement as everyone arrived at Westminster Abbey early in the morning for final dress rehearsals!

The Commonwealth Festival Choir and Orchestra performed in the Pre-Observance as guests arrived, including 1,000 schoolchildren, Commonwealth Religious Leaders and Delegates, Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and no fewer than SIX members of the Royal Family!

First to arrive were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They were followed by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. At the arrival of Her Majesty The Queen, and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinbugh, Max Bilbe’s specially-composed fanfare (performed beautifully by five young brass players from the Chetham’s Commonwealth Team) resounded through the Abbey!

For the main Observance Service, a brand-new piece was composed by 16-year old Thomas Carr, and choreographed for dancedigital by Commonwealth Music Ambassador Sarah Ndagire (Uganda). This colourful, dazzling piece delighted the audience, who greatly enjoyed the lively enthusiasm of the young dancers, and the skilful playing of the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra who accompanied them.

Comments by young musicians, dancers and composers

‘It was the best day of my life’

‘I never imagined how amazing it would be’

‘The Queen smiled at me as she walked past us!’

‘I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear my piece played on Monday and to be presented to members of the Royal Family! The event was wonderful and I am overjoyed to have been part of it.’  – Thomas Carr, 16-year-old composer of the dance piece ‘Maltugandata UK!

Photos © Westminster Abbey/Picture Partnership. A further selection of pictures/prints are available here.

SUNDAY MARCH 8th – Commonwealth Gala Concert Morley College 6-7pm

This short, lively and extremely attractive Gala Concert will celebrate both the 10th Anniversary of The Commonwealth Resounds and the 125th Anniversary of Morley College.


A fanfare, by young composer Max Bilbe

The Commonwealth Festival Orchestra and Choir

Young musicians from the RCM Junior Department

Young musicians from Chethams School of Music

dancedigital, and a new work ‘Maltugandata UK’ by young composer Thomas Carr

Young singers from The Purcell School for Young Musicians

Samba group from Morley

Kathak Dancers from Morley

MONDAY MARCH 9th – Commonwealth Observance Day 2015

Young musicians, singers and dancers from different cultural groups across the UK are getting very excited about Commonwealth Observance Day 2015, on Monday March 9th at Westminster Abbey. This year, several of the performances have been organised by The Commonwealth Resounds.

The Observance will be attended by Her Majesty The Queen and other members of the Royal Family, Commonwealth Religious Leaders, High Commissioners, Commonwealth Delegates and members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as a large number of schoolchildren and members of the public.

Those performing will include: 

dancedigital has worked in close collaboration with Sarah Ndagire from Uganda and will be accompanied by members of the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra, performing ‘Maltugandata UK’, a specially-commissioned piece by young composer Thomas Carr, aged 16. This performance has been generously supported by Hertfordshire Music Education Hub.


The Commonwealth Festival Choir – performing new songs written by young people in a special songwriting workshop, supported by Lord and Lady Harris and the Gatwick Area Community Fund, and featuring young singers from the Bermondsey Harris Academy, the Apollo Youth Choir and the Purcell School for Young Musicians.

The Commonwealth Festival Orchestra conducted by Dr James Ross and featuring young musicians from the Royal College of Music Junior Department, Chethams School of Music and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

Commonwealth Festival Orchestra

Fanfare – The Commonwealth Resounds! – composed by Max Bilbe aged 16 and performed by young musicians from Chetham’s School of Music.

New Ambassador for Sri Lanka!

The Commonwealth Resounds is delighted to confirm that Louis Perera will become their Young Music Ambassador for Sri Lanka. For our 10th Anniversary in 2015, we are looking for other outstandingly talented young musicians in different Commonwealth countries to become Young Ambassadors and help us to promote musical partnerships in their own countries. This is inspired by the theme ‘A Young Commonwealth’ which runs throughout Commonwealth Week from March 9th-15th

Write a Song and Sing It

Write a Song and Sing It

From October 10th – 12th a group of young singers and composers from the Purcell School’s Commonwealth team travelled to Kent to work with inexperienced but enthusiastic young singers from the Apollo Youth Choir and the Bermondsey Harris Academy who were keen to write and sing their own songs. 

The idea of this project was to create some new material for the recently re-developed Commonwealth Festival Choir. The choir will be singing some of these songs in Westminster Abbey as part of Commonwealth Observance Day 2015, in which the Commonwealth Resounds will be strongly featured as it celebrates its 10th Anniversary. 

All-in-all, 12 new songs were composed by young people in a single day, all of which were commendable and some of which were excellent.Three of these songs will be orchestrated by more experienced young composer/orchestrators to be accompanied by the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra in Westminster Abbey on March 9th 2015.

The special theme for this year’s Commonwealth Observance Day is ‘A Young Commonwealth’. This lovely project will fit this theme admirably. To read more about it, click here