Oh What A Beautiful Monarch
How the Queen Burst Into Song Listening to ‘Oklahoma!’ at the U.S. Ambassador’s Party
We usually think of Her Majesty as an austere figure. So it’s refreshing to hear stories of her letting her hair down for a good old sing-song at the U.S. ambassador’s house.
Queen Elizabeth requested show tunes from the Rodgers and Hammerstein toe-tapper Oklahoma! for after-dinner entertainment, and sang along to Oh What a Beautiful Morning, a singer who was invited to perform for her at a private dinner has revealed.
The rare insight into Her Majesty’s musical tastes comes from singer Dennis McNeil, 58, who told People magazine that he was asked by the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom to perform for Her Majesty.
Sensibly, McNeil did a little research.
“We reached out to the palace for her musical tastes, and her lady-in-waiting informed us she loves show tunes,” says McNeil, “Especially show tunes from Oklahoma.”
Well, who would have thought it?
Having prepped a number of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, the singer donned his black tie and tootled along to the intimate dinner at the ambassador’s London residence, Winfield House, where some 20 guests were gathered for an exclusive soiree.
The Queen worked her way casually through the room, McNeil says, and told him that the first opera she ever saw was Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, when she was 8 years old. Her mother took her along with her sister, Princess Margaret.
This might seem an odd choice for an 8-year-old’s first exposure to the operatic arts, but, as she told McNeil: “It was the re-opening of [the opera house at] Covent Garden, so I suppose we had to be there.”
Well quite. Duty calls and all that, even for an 8-year-old
Her Majesty then dropped what might be interpreted as a not-particularly subtle hint about how she would like the evening’s entertainment to unfold: “She mentioned how she wished more singable songs were written today. The kind of tunes you can hum along to.”
Fortunately, having done his homework, McNeil was able to break into Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific.
During the song, he told People, the Queen pulled out her purse and took out her lipstick.
“As I sang, she applied a fresh coat of lipstick,” he says.
He then sang It Had to Be You. “I’m told she was tapping her feet to that one,” he says. “Afterwards, one of the guests said that she leaned over to him and said, ‘So nice to hear real music.’”
The next song was Oh What a Beautiful Morning. “A lot of people in the room sang along, including the Queen,” he says. “That was really cool.”
Yes, you read that right: The Queen burst into song. In the annals of royal biographical detail on our usually sphinx-like monarch, this counts as a highly revelatory insight.
Having told McNeil that the music was “delightful,” HM left the party.
“As the car started to pull away, she gave that trademark wave through the window. It was pretty phenomenal,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep that night. It was a Cinderella kind of night. I never wanted the evening to end.”