A brush with royalty: Man’s love of music earns him spot in history

Photo courtesy of Tony Holt
Tony Holt, shown here as a young boy in England. When Holt was 12, he was invited to join a choir that sang at the June 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Great Britain native Tony Holt has had a couple of brushes with royalty throughout his lifetime but his first experience, at the June 2, 1953, coronation of Queen Elizabeth II marked the very start of the queen’s Diamond Jubilee reign.

A young choir member at a local parish church near London, Holt trained with the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM). He would fill in for the cathedral choir members when they were on holiday.

Holt was one of 20 young boys selected to perform at the queen’s coronation 60 years ago. He was sent a letter asking if he’d be interested in singing with the choir at the queen’s coronation. Holt, 12 at the time, agreed and was whisked off to RSCM headquarters in South London for a month.

“We were chosen by the people who were doing the training. The conductors and people involved in the leadership of RCSM,” he said. “So I guess you could say that it was pure luck that I had the proper age and experience they were looking for.”

Performance training was rigorous. The group trained for a month. There was a lot of new music and practices, including many at Westminster Abbey. Practices increased as the coronation date neared.

“(On Coronation day) in the Abbey, we were sitting way up high, above the main choir, looking down on the heads of the Peers of the Realm,” Holt said. “I remember that we arrived incredibly early in the morning with our sandwiches and we sat in our spot while everyone else assembled in the abbey.”

Looking back Holt had said that he wished he had taken more notice of the ceremony.

“I didn’t really realize the importance of the fact at the time,” Holt said. “She was a young queen and everyone was very excited about it.”

After the coronation Holt said that the boys went back to their houses and schools and carried on with life as before.

Since then, he’s pursued a career in music. Performing with the King’s Singers, one of the world’s most celebrated choral ensembles, for 20 years and then teaching at St. Olaf College as part of their music faculty. He’s since begun to give individual lessons since moving to Wisconsin.

“Music was always an important part of my life,” Holt said. “As you get older your voice runs out. So I started teaching and I’ve learned more about singing from teaching than doing singing.”

Holt will begin giving lessons in Stillwater very soon. Those interested in taking individual lessons with Holt contact him at holta@stolaf.edu

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