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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Jubilee tour diary: Buckingham Palace
Nick Higham on the Queens Jubilee tour
Nick Higham is following the Queen's Jubilee tour
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the seventh in a series of dispatches from around the country.


Saturday 1 June

After the gates of Buckingham Palace opened at 4pm, the 12,000 lucky winners of the ballot for tickets for the BBC's Prom at the Palace began streaming through onto the lawns of the palace gardens.

There is tight security - police with binoculars on the palace roofs scan the crowd but this lot looked harmless enough: Predominantly middle-aged and elderly.

Never have the weather, the grandest of locations and an all-star cast come together quite so perfectly

Most seem astonished to be here, as they sit on the grass, tucking into their smoked salmon roulade, their special jubilee chicken - a recipe featuring lots of lime and cooked up by a chef in the Buckingham Palace kitchen - and a half bottle of champagne.

Camilla Parker Bowles
Camilla had a seat in the royal box
Karen Long and Denis Dagress from Norwich, were among the first through the gates.

For them it's the start of a quintessentially English weekend.

After the concert they will drive back to Norwich.

On Sunday, Denis plans to go fishing while Karen plans to watch the England-Sweden match.

As I tiptoed through the couples on the grass, I heard one man say: "They should do this every year."

Concert costs

When I put that a little later to a senior palace official, his response takes me aback.

"Yes, they should shouldn't they?"

But they won't if only because they can't afford it.

Even though the staff have given their services free, tonight's concert and the pop concert on Monday are costing the BBC 3m.

Some cash will be raised from selling the programme rights overseas (it is being shown in 40 countries).

Concert-goers enjoying a picnic
The crowd enjoyed hampers courtesy of the Queen
More will come from premium-rate phone lines which people had to ring for the ballot for tickets but all that money is going to charity.

Eight o'clock, and the Queen arrives with the Duke of Edinburgh, late.

Already seated in a special royal box are 16 other members of the royal family and Camilla Parker Bowles, carefully seated in the second row next to Sir Michael Peat, keeper of the Privy Purse (the Queen's finance director) and well away from both the Queen herself and Prince Charles.

Summer party spirit

But it's another step on Camilla's road to public acceptance.

The concert begins with a fanfare by Sir William Walton and played by the trumpeters of the royal marines and Handel's coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest, played and sung by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chorus under Sir Andrew Davis.

As Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings Summertime from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, a flight of birds flits through the trees, next to the palace lake.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa gave a rousing performance
The British have a taste for music-making in the open air (astonishing given our weather) and for music-making in country houses.

Never have the weather, the grandest of locations and an all-star cast come together quite so perfectly.

No concert like this is complete without Handel's music for the royal fireworks, although few have Michael Parkinson as their MC.

The fireworks go up on cue from the lake alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the stage.

Prince Charles conducts

Even the Queen seems impressed.

Hard to follow that?

Not if you're Angela Gheorghiu, prima donna par excellence, a woman whose reputation for artistic tantrums is matched only by the power and beauty of her voice.

She and husband Roberto Alagna sing a pair of arias culminating in the rousing duet and chorus Brindisi from Verdi's La Traviata.

After that, even the Queen joined in the singing of Land of Hope and Glory, as the Prince of Wales next to her, helped Sir Andrew Davis conduct the distant orchestra by vigorously waving his programme in the air.

Music fans watching the concert on giant screens
Hundreds watched the concert on giant screens
Then the royal party left, the Queen to make an unscheduled appearance on a stage, hastily constructed in front of Buckingham Palace for the benefit of the thousands who watched the concert on giant TV screens in the Mall and Green Park and St James's Park.

Back in the palace garden meanwhile, the photographers were already sending back pictures of Camilla Parker Bowles for tomorrow morning's Sunday papers.

As the crowd poured out, they pronounced the evening a triumph.

"Not a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, a once-in-history occasion".

Another man said: "I thought it was marvellous and I'm not even English, I'm Dutch.

"We have nothing like this in Holland. All Europe should see this."

And with that, 12,000 people slipped away into the London night, while inside the palace gardens, 400 technicians began preparing to do it all again for Monday's pop concert.


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