At Her Majesty’s service!

Brian Ellis, a musician who played piano at the coronation banquet at Buckingham Palace.  (d603a322)
Brian Ellis, a musician who played piano at the coronation banquet at Buckingham Palace. (d603a322)

June 2, 1953, was a day of excitement and celebration for the whole country as a young princess was crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

But for a Spen pianist, it was also a day of nerve-wracking tension as, with just a couple of hours’ notice, he was asked to accompany the Coldstream Guards Band as it played during the evening banquet at Buckingham Palace.

The Coldstream Guards Band. Brian Ellis, in the middle of the front row, was asked to step in at the last minute to play piano for the Queen's coronation banquet.

The Coldstream Guards Band. Brian Ellis, in the middle of the front row, was asked to step in at the last minute to play piano for the Queen's coronation banquet.

This weekend, as the country marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation, Brian Ellis, of Pyenot Hall Lane, will look back on the occasion with fond memories.

“The Coldstream Guards had an orchestra which was to play in the palace in the evening, but on Coronation Day, the pianist was taken ill with appendicitis, and I was told to step in to play,” he recalled.

“I’d never played with the orchestra until that night. I normally played the clarinet with the band, but I was told to play the piano. I hadn’t rehearsed with them at all.

“I sat down, there was a pile of music in front of me that I hadn’t seen before, but I just had to concentrate and get through it.

“Looking back, it’s incredible. It’s something no-one else has done, played piano at the Queen’s Coronation, so it’s my claim to fame!”
Brian went to the Military School at Kneller Hall at Whitton and joined the Coldstream Guards as a pianist, though he then moved on to play the clarinet.

After leaving the Guards Brian became a peripatetic teacher and still plays concerts locally.

The coronation was not the only time the Ellis family had a brush with royalty.

In 1932 the Duke of York – later King George – visited BBA in Cleckheaton and his father, Fred Ellis who was a chargehand there, had his picture taken with him which was later used in a commemorative company brochure.