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.