top of page


12 March 2012 Marlborough House.jpg

Presentation of The Commonwealth Anthem

By Composer Paul Carroll To Her Majesty The Queen.

March 2012, Marlborough House, London.


© Crown Copyright

An extract from a recent interview – August 2020 – with

Captain Stuart Marsh, Adjutant, State Ceremonial Music Household Division Bands


I was born in East London in 1955. I studied piano and bassoon at the exceptional Council-run Newham Academy of Music.  As a teenager I joined the Newham Academy Youth Orchestra which provided me with a platform for the performance of my compositions and I proudly remember Sir Adrian Boult conducting one of these early works. On leaving school I studied bassoon with Geoff Gambold and composition with Phillip Cannon at the Royal College of Music. 


In 1985 I was appointed, the youngest ever, Professor at the Royal College of Music - a post I held for twenty five years. Shortly after my appointment I attended a concert and seated behind me was Professor Kerry Camden.  In a quiet moment he leant forward and whispered to me:  “You realise that one hundred years ago William Hurlstone was appointed Professor here, but died after less than one year at the age of thirty!”  Undeterred I soldiered on for another quarter of a century. 


During this time I also performed as an on-stage musician for The Royal National Theatre.


In 2008 I was commissioned by the Commonwealth Secretariat to write an anthem to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of The Commonwealth.  The Commonwealth Secretariat wrote the words, based on the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which I set to music and this was adopted as the official Commonwealth Anthem.  As part of these Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Commonwealth Secretariat also commissioned me to compose a larger work for orchestra and choir. The lyrics, which are a celebration of The Commonwealth, were also written by the Commonwealth Secretariat. My composition, A Commonwealth Cantata, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios by the London Symphony Orchestra and Choir, and was premiered on 28 April 2009 at Buckingham Palace, performed by The Academy of Saint Martin the Fields, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and 350 guests. 


I was then appointed Commonwealth Music Composer in Residence, a post which I occupied for ten years, during which time I wrote a great number of compositions for many important anniversaries and key royal events.  In 2012, the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, I conducted Commonwealth Orchestras and Choirs in the presence of Her Majesty on 15 separate occasions.  A particular highlight for me during that period was to be invited by The Queen to conduct the Commonwealth Orchestra and Children’s Choir on “The Queen’s Christmas Message”, which was broadcast on 25 December 2017.


My first collaboration with the Musicians of the Household Division was in 2016, with the performance of the Commonwealth Anthem which I had composed, in 2008, by the Massed Bands of the Household Division with the Commonwealth Children’s Choir at Beating Retreat June 2016.  That year, to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th Birthday, the Household Division honoured Her Majesty, as Head of The Commonwealth, by making The Commonwealth a theme of its Beating of the Retreat 2016. 


Also in Beating Retreat 2016 there was the marking of the Centenary of the Battle of Jutland, and a feature was made of Jack Cornwall VC, the young seaman who bravely fought, and then was mortally wounded, at Jutland. Jack Cornwall, like me, also came from East Ham – he joined the Navy aged 16 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for great heroism at the Battle of Jutland.  Inspired by the story, I collaborated with Grahame Davies, the great Welsh Poet, who wrote a beautiful poem about Jack, which I set to music. 


My composition “Jack” was recorded by the Musicians of the Household Division and the Commonwealth Children’s Choir in 2017 and it was included in a pair of CDs recorded by the Household Division which were presented that year by, the then Senior Director of Music of the Household Division, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Roberts, to mark the Sapphire Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen.  One CD was dedicated to The Queen, “Ode For Her Majesty” and a second CD, called “Jack”, was dedicated to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.


Also recorded on the “Jack” CD was my composition “Her Majesty’s Sapphire Jubilee Suite of Four Marches” - each march was given a title to represent the four nations of the United Kingdom: Windsor, Caernarfon, Balmoral and Hillsborough. They each have distinctive national musical styles. These marches have been performed at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace for Changing of the Guard and the march “Windsor” was played by the Massed Bands of the Household Division at Trooping the Colour in 2018. 


Also in 2017, I composed, recorded and presented to Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh a set of nine piano pieces, as celebration of their 70th wedding anniversary.


Earlier this year I was invited by Lieutenant Colonel Simon Haw, Commanding Officer of the Household Division Bands, to arrange “Trumpet Tune”, composed by the great English composer, Henry Purcell, for Her Majesty’s Birthday Parade and it was subsequently performed by the Massed Bands of the Household Division in “A Birthday Tribute for Her Majesty The Queen” at Windsor Castle in June 2020.


bottom of page