What's It Like to Sing for the Royal Family? The Queen's Six Choir Says There's a Lot of 'Pressure'

Members of The Queen’s Six, a vocal sextet who live at Windsor Castle, tell PEOPLE about singing for the royal family as well as their latest big event — their New York City debut 

The Queens Six
Photo: Courtesy

Performing for Queen Elizabeth II before her death was quite a career milestone for members of The Queen's Six choir.

The vocal sextet, who live in the U.K.'s famed Windsor Castle, has had its fair share of history-making moments — its members have performed at the 2018 royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the funerals of both Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Her Majesty.

"All of these events are kind of like a whirlwind," Queen's Six founder Simon Whiteley tells PEOPLE. "They come along, and there's a huge amount of press interest, and just as quickly as all the cameras appear, they disappear."

Behind the scenes, The Queen's Six — comprised of members Whiteley, Lissie Paul, Tom Lilburn, Nick Madden, Dominic Bland and Andrew Thompson — along with members of the bigger Lay Clerks of St. George's Chapel choir (which they are all part of) spend their days preparing to lend their voices to various events at the palace.

The Queens Six

The casting process is an arduous one, says Madden. To get into the Lay Clerks, he recalls a slew of interviews before a sight-singing test as well as an audition in front of other members of the choir.

"It's quite exhilarating, and it's a tough job to get, and it should be. Once you've got the job, you have this for life," says Madden.

Adds Whiteley: "It's good and right that they do it that way because they've gotta know you can deal with the high-pressure situations."

For example, during Prince Philip's funeral, Whiteley remembers a "very pared-down, intimate service in the chapel," due partly to COVID-19. Only four members of the choir were asked to partake in a performance.

"There's that incredibly powerful image of the Queen, [who] sat by herself," Whiteley says. "We were just in the other parts of the building whilst all that was happening, and for us, it was quite nerve-wracking because there are only four of us. Usually, we'd be singing in a choir of 30 people. So when you are just singing your part by yourself in front of millions of people watching, that's quite a scary thing."

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth at the funeral of Prince Philip, her late husband. Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images

During his first week on the job in March 2007, it was the beginning of Holy Week — and Queen Elizabeth was scheduled to attend the Easter Sunday morning service in St. George's Chapel, he recalls.

"[The Lay Clerks of St. George's Chapel] take it in turns to sing solos. At the end of my first week, it happened to be my turn to sing a solo, and there was a very big solo down for the service that the Queen was coming to. So that was a bit of a baptism of fire, which I will never forget," he says, adding that the Queen "apparently did say nice things about my performance."

The group of six is currently on holiday from their post at Windsor Castle. They're spending the off-hours doing what they love — performing — but this time, thousands of miles away from the royal family.

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The Queen’s Six arriving in New York City for the Town Hall debut. Where was the image taken – JFK airport When was the image taken - Monday, February 13, 2023 Who took the photograph – Bruce Glikas Full credit line – Photos by Bruce Glikas. Instagram @bruglikas / @broadwaybruce_ Twitter photo credit is @brugli
Bruce Glikas

"We're in the States for the whole week," says Whiteley, whose group The Queen's Six will make their New York City debut at Town Hall on Tuesday with an encore performance on Wednesday.

Following their two shows in New York, the group will fly to Florida to perform at the Community Church of Vero Beach, and then it's back to the U.K.

"It's an amazing office," says Madden of life at Windsor Castle. "I think you sort of walk into the building, and you go: '[I'm] pretty lucky to be working here.' "

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