It was gala night at the Royal Festival Hall. Everyone, I mean just about anyone who was anyone was there – including royalty, peers of the realm, classic and pop stars, (could you tell the difference anymore?) the odd member of parliament (some of them were truly very odd!) and even the US and French ambassadors.
Halfway through the evening – just before the break – when there was a slight undercurrent of restlessness, to be truthful we had all rather gorged ourselves on the music, the Gala Singers took to the stage. They were supposed to be an impromptu supergroup brought together especially for this one occasion only but there was already talk of a recording contract and their agents and the agents of the agents were in the thick of the various necessary negotiations.
The backing orchestra from the BBC played a few bars and the Gala Singers began collectively sounding a true, clear and very high note that just slightly wavered or quivered. Suddenly a chandelier shattered – it sounded like a gun going off and many members of the audience ducked spontaneously. There was a collective gasp from the audience but before anyone could do anything but duck another chandelier shattered and then another.
I studied the singers and they were clearly unsurprised. They were expecting this to happen! Pandemonium broke out as people began to frantically flee the concert hall, blocking up the exits and losing their English cool. Meanwhile the singers were escorted off stage.
What on earth was going on and why?
We didn’t have long to wait. Next day, reports came in from all over London of glass being shattered by singing – firstly the windows at the Bank of England, then at the House of Commons where there were no bottles left unshattered in Annie’s Bar and no windows in any of the rooms. Next it was the turn of Buckingham Palace and then the Ministry of Defence and then what seems to have been a foiled attempt to shatter the glass in Number 10 Downing Street.