Back in 1986, I was a student at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. It was here that I had my close encounter with the Queen, Elizabeth II.
Back in 1986, the practice rooms for brass players were down in the bowels of the building. These were often damp and musty. In addition, the acoustics were terrible. The rooms were sparse and boomy. There was no sound insulation. Add to this the element that you could only book the room for one hour.
The Sydney Botanic Gardens
Right next door to the Conservatorium of Music are The Sydney Botanic Gardens. This presented itself to me as a far better option as a practice room. Rather than locking myself away in a damp, dingy, booming box, I could enjoy Sydney’s wonderful temperate climate and practise outdoors in the gardens. As a bonus, practising outdoors is great for developing you “sound”. With no walls for your notes to reverberate off, it tends to strengthened your overall sound.
Government House, Sydney
Right next door to The Botanic Gardens is Government House. The old building that forms the basis of the NSW Conservatorium of Music was originally the stables for Government House. Built around 1843, Government House was traditionally the residence of The Governor of NSW. Back in 1986, New South Wales Governor was Air Marshal Sir James Anthony Rowland, and he had a highly auspicious house guest, the Queen of England.
The Queen’s 1986 Visit to Australia
The main purpose of the Queen’s visit to Australia in 1986 was to sign a proclamation which brought into effect the Australia Act, 1986. This severed the final constitutional link between Australia and the United Kingdom. Naturally, she also made many public appearances throughout the country. Interestingly, she officially opened Parramatta Stadium on this trip, which was demolished and rebuilt in recent years.
My Close Encounter With The Queen
One day while practising in the Botanic Gardens, I could see the Royal Rolls Royce preparing to leave Government House. I thought that it was highly likely that The Queen was on board, departing for one of her various outings around Sydney. There is a service road that runs through the gardens between Government House and the Conservatorium. I kept practising but I edged up towards the road so that I could get a good look at Her Majesty, should she be in the car. It was a quiet afternoon and I was the only person around. The Royal car left the gates and drove right past where I was standing. The Queen looked out the window at me and I instinctively waved. She waved back at me. I’m far from being a royalist, but the excitement I felt is difficult to describe. I was absolutely tickled pink! And…that was my close encounter with the Queen. My own person, private wave from Queen Elizabeth II.