Formal audiences. How it works: The music
The Armed Forces Music Corps. Musical Director Major Mats Janhagen conducts. Photo: royalcourt.se
Royal military music has ancient roots. Historically, drums and trumpets were used on the battlefield. This morning, the music provides a worthy background to the formal audiences. When the ambassador arrives at the Royal Palace of Stockholm in the Karl XV Parade Coupé, muted drums sound across the Inner Courtyard. The ambassador signal is then sounded on a trumpet.
In an hour's time, the first ambassador will be welcomed at the East Gate. Over the course of the morning, three more new ambassadors will arrive at the palace to submit their credentials to The King. Musicians from the Armed Forces Music Corps carry their drums and wind instruments up the reddish-brown limestone steps of the East Staircase.
They set up their instruments outside the Bernadotte Apartments, check over their equipment and adjust their uniforms. The eleven members of the band in the staircase wear the 1886 Göta Life Guards uniform. Plumed helmets are worn on special ceremonial occasions, such as this morning's ceremony. The drummers in the Inner Courtyard wear the same uniforms. On warmer days, a larger band performs, but this morning the temperature has fallen below zero degrees, the lower limit for wind instruments.
The 1886 Göta Life Guards uniform. Photo: royalcourt.se
Epaulettes are part of the uniform. The epaulettes were originally part of the knight's uniform, and were intended to protect the shoulder against sword cuts. Photo: royalcourt.se
Trumpets and drums have been used by the military since ancient times, when they were used for coordination on the battlefield and to inspire courage among the men. Battle music gradually came to provide entertainment for the troops, and from the end of the 16th century marching music was heard during parades through the streets of Stockholm. Today, the Swedish music corps are the Armed Forces Music Corps, the Life Guards' Dragoon Music Corps and the Navy's Music Corps. The three corps alternate for state ceremonial duties at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. The Armed Forces Music Corps is the largest, with around 50 permanent musicians. As well as royal activities, they also take part in over one hundred parades and concerts each year, both in Sweden and abroad.
Musical Director Major Mats Janhagen with the band in the East Staircase. Photo: royalcourt.se
On the staircase, Musical Director Major Mats Janhagen has gathered the band members together for a run-through. He raises his baton and strikes up the Royal Guard's March. This is played as the ambassador enters the East Cabinet in the Bernadotte Apartments to meet The King. After the meeting, the ambassador leaves to the accompaniment of The Svea Life Guard Lagom March, composed by Prince Gustaf in 1847.
A portrait of the "song prince", Prince Gustaf, shortly before his death in 1852. Photo from the Bernadotte Library's archive.
Prince Gustaf (1827-52) was an accomplished pianist and singer, and made a name for himself as a composer under the pseudonym G*****. During the 25 years of his short life, he managed to compose around fifty songs and marches. The best known of these, which are still sung to this day, are The Student Song and The Spring Song.
The King arrives. The trumpeter sounds four general calls. Photo: royalcourt.se
Down at the East Gate, the Head of the Commandant Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Beck-Friis Häll, arrives for an inspection. Everything is in order. Everyone takes their positions. The King makes his entry, and the trumpeter sounds four general calls. Richard Beck-Friis Häll hands over to The King, and confirms that all military personnel are in place and ready for the ceremony. The King then continues up the East Staircase and into the Bernadotte Apartments.
Drummers, including regiment drummer David Lindberg, make their way out into the Inner Courtyard. Photo: royalcourt.se
Just before half past nine, the cortège carrying the ambassadors approaches. First, a regiment trumpeter from the Life Guards' Dragoon Music Corps rides into the courtyard. The carriages then roll in to the sound of muted drumbeats. At the East Gate, the ambassador gets out and the trumpeter raises his trumpet and sounds the ambassador signal. The ambassador is welcomed, and enters the East Gate. There, another trumpet call sounds and the band on the staircase begins to play The Royal Guard's March.
Regiment trumpeter Anders Ahlbin from the Life Guards' Dragoon Music Corps, mounted on his horse Metropol. Photo: royalcourt.se
On Friday 12 April, The King received four new foreign ambassadors at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. This was the fourth of eight formal audiences due to be held during the year.
A Swedish military music concert
On Sunday 14 April at 15:00, the Armed Forces Music Corps performed a free concert at Berwaldhallen. The conductor was Mats Janhagen, and the programme consisted exclusively of music from the archive of the Svea Life Guards — classic military music, a number of marches, but primarily concert pieces, waltzes and medleys.
Interested in royal military music?
On Wednesday 25 September at 18:00-19:30, Mats Janhagen will be speaking about the modern-day duties of a professional music corps. During the evening, he will also be conducting a small unit from the Armed Forces Music Corps, performing music composed by King Oskar I and Prince Gustaf.
Tickets can be booked by telephone on +46 (0)8 402 61 30 on weekdays between 09:00 and 12:00.
The programme is part of the "Interested in..." series.