Rockin' with the Queen
July 28, 2008 5:22 PM   Subscribe

An acquaintance of mine claims that she performed with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1992, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance. Could she be fibbing?

My friend and I recently met a really nice couple at a biker event. They live the biker life now, but the female half of the couple spoke of how she learned to play the viola when growing up in Pittsburgh.

In 1992, as part of a class project, she had to put together a classical version of a popular rock song, and she was assigned/chose Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".

After a period of time of contacting the UK to get the rights to the song, etc, she apparently attracted the attention of the Queen, and somehow, a show was arranged where my new friend got to perform with the London Symphony Orchestra, and had an audience with the Queen!

Seems to me it's much more likely that my friend went to England for the performance, as it seems unlikely that the Queen AND the Orchestra came to the US for this performance! But I simply do not know for sure.

My friend would have been 16/17 in 1992, as she is 33 now,and I am seeking to find any news articles about this exciting event which would surely have made some papers, somewhere, right?

I only have the woman's first name... she goes by "Chelle" or "Michelle", and I am not sure what her maiden name is. I may be wrong, but I seem to think it might be "Rutherford", but perhaps that is only her current husband's name.

Does anyone have any magical skills to help me find some info on the net about this meeting with the Queen?
posted by newfers to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
After a period of time of contacting the UK to get the rights to the song

Well, that doesn't make any sense. Anyone could record or play "Stairway To Heaven." You don't need to get any "rights to the song." In theory, if you use a song for any sort of commercial purposes, you're supposed to notify (that's all, just notify) the publisher of the song that you're doing it, and income may be forthcoming. But, a lot of people don't bother to do it in such an upfront fashion, and a 16 or 17 year-old, doing this for a class project? No way.

Not to mention that it's only the American publisher she'd need to contact.

I'm sure the song was recorded in "classical" fashion long before 1992; it was kind of a cliché even in Bosnia, long before then. It's kind of a dreadful choice for this supposed project, but knowing how much the Queen loves Led Zeppelin . . . oh, right!

A 16 year-old who'd "captured the attention" of the Queen and suddenly got thrown into a show with the LSO . . . well that would have been a pretty big story.

Of course, this is a lie.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:42 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The LSO recorded a version of "Stairway To Heaven" in 1981. So yeah, the idea was pretty stale by 1992.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:47 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Could she be fibbing? Yeah, she could!

-- Why would she need the rights to the song if it's just for a 17-year-old's class project?
-- How would writing to "the UK" for the rights attract the attention of the Queen? It's not like she personally reads every letter that passes through the country's mail system.
-- Why does the London Symphony need your friend to arrange rock anthems for them?

I mean, I guess I can't *prove* it didn't happen, but seriously, there's no way this story is true.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:47 PM on July 28, 2008


This site lists the LSO releasing a recording of an orchestral cover of Stairway in 1981 [see entry #144], when your friend was in first grade.

There's also a London Philharmonic Orchestra studio recording of a bunch of Zeppelin songs, including Stairway to Heaven, which was released in 1997. However, the credit for the arrangements is given to Jaz Coleman.

I suppose it's possible that your friend performed in some context which included the Queen's audience (after all, she's willing to sit through Britain's Got Talent winners' performances) but as Dee Xtrovert pointed out, orchestral arrangements of that song are a cliché predating the 90s.
posted by jamaro at 5:50 PM on July 28, 2008


I 1993 the London Symphony Orchestra contributed to an album called Rock'n' Symphony, not sure if that might help, but from the album specifics it says it was recorded in studio, although there might have been other performances linked to it?

Also from another article via google,
"In 1992 the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was established to offer
experience to young professional musicians aged 18-26"

posted by chrisbucks at 5:52 PM on July 28, 2008


Well, of COURSE she's lying, because everyone here says she is :)

And yes, I know orchestral versions of Zeppelin songs are quite cliched, and she likely did not need to contact anyone for the "rights" to the song, but perhaps it was part of the process her teacher required people to go through, to learn the ins and outs of song royalty, fair use, etc. I do not know!

I would just assume that something like this would be relatively easy to verify on the net, if it were true, but I never cease to be amazed by how much I can NOT find online! Especially from 1992!
posted by newfers at 5:55 PM on July 28, 2008


Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it tends to be easier to find information about events that actually happened...
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:59 PM on July 28, 2008 [7 favorites]


Why do you care? If she is truly a friend then you just accept it, with a huge grain of salt, and fail to obsess over the truth, that is unless she keeps harping over it. Human interaction often requires a large degree of sucking it up. Basically, even if you are right, proving her wrong on this most likely is negative to your relationship. We all have friends with fantastic stories, some of which we know to be false, and some of which we merely suspect, but then we love these friends, so we smile when we hear the story again. If you really must, I am sure that if you email the LSO they can provide you with all the details. Most orchestras have some sort of historian who can answer all the trivia you want on who, what, where, when and how, and with context and fun. On a good day, you will even get details on costumes, attendees and lots of other fun stuff. I frankly see it as abuse to use this resource to prove a lie, but it is there. I recommend that you instead just humor your friend; that is what friend's are for.
posted by caddis at 6:08 PM on July 28, 2008


Perhaps a case of wild exaggeration. She could have been involved somehow in some sort of concert that the Queen attended.
posted by winston at 6:11 PM on July 28, 2008


You could write the LSO. Maybe say something like you're looking for a copy of the program for the performance at which your friend's work was performed.
posted by winston at 6:13 PM on July 28, 2008


"Why do you care?"

I care because I would LOVE to print out newspaper articles documenting the occasion, to give them to her when my friends and I see her again at another event in August. And plus, I'd love to read the official story.

I wish people weren't so harsh here. Why must everyone assume the worst? I mean, I do realize the story could be a huge fib, but I am 90% convinced it is not. I'm a decent judge of character, and just dismissing it as a lie is not helpful. I choose to believe it is true, for the most part. True, unless proven false.

I appreciate those of you who suggested contacting the London Symphony Orchestra, which I did.

But perhaps they're a pack of liars, and I shouldn't believe them. ;)
posted by newfers at 6:21 PM on July 28, 2008


Why must everyone assume the worst?

Maybe because you ended your question with "Could she be fibbing?" Why be surprised when people enter a door you opened?
posted by jamaro at 6:26 PM on July 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't mean to be harsh. But extraordinary claims require at least some kind of proof. If someone told you a very unlikely story, and there was no ready evidence that is was true, and all of your internet searches turned up nothing, would you assume it was false? Or would you decide you hadn't looked hard enough? And how long are you going to look before you decide that you're done looking?

It's tough to prove that something never happened. I myself could claim to have to have met the pope ten years ago. How would you prove I was lying? If I offer you no evidence that my claim is true, why should you believe it?

In this case contacting the LSO probably won't tell you anything. If you hear back and the answer is 'no', then either your friend is lying, or maybe you've got the wrong orchestra; better check with the London Philharmonic, and maybe the youth symphony, just in case. Maybe your friend's trustworthiness means you search longer before giving up. But the honest opinion of unbiased people here is telling you that you don't need to search at all.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:37 PM on July 28, 2008


The LSO recorded a version of "Stairway To Heaven" in 1981.

May I point out this does not preclude them from having performed it in 1992.


She could have been involved somehow in some sort of concert that the Queen attended.

I agree that's entirely possible, although the tale may have acquire some embellishment along the way.

You could write the LSO.

Or phone. The person to get hold of is the LSO archivist, who could, no doubt, shed some light. Her name is Libby Rice, her email address is libby.rice@lso.co.uk, and her phone number is 020 7382 2533.

But perhaps they're a pack of liars, and I shouldn't believe them

Can't help you there, OP, but you need to recognize that people are attempting to answer your questions, for the most part. Even you expressed a shade of doubt by saying it might have been on one side or the other of the Atlantic.

I am 90% convinced it is not

See, it's just the biker part that's got us wondering. Anyway, good luck, and clue us in if you find out for sure!
posted by beagle at 6:39 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Believe me, the whole "biker part" is what I knew would lead people to assume the worst. I am not a biker, but I enjoy meeting these people, as they sure know how to have fun, and they've shattered a lot of my preconceived notions. In other words, I'd rather hang out with a room full of bikers than a room full of politicians.

Anyway, I have already contacted Libby Rice, and will be sure to post the results here.

Simply assuming this girl was lying is not how I live my life. I wanted to know more, find out if it was true, and how it came about, until maybe I can quiz her some more.

I will be sure to post anything I discover.
posted by newfers at 6:47 PM on July 28, 2008


it wouldn't suprise me terribly if she had played with an orchestra in london and the queen had been there. it could have been some charity event involving american schoolchildren. 1992 is stone-age in internet time and, honestly, every tedious public relations task the queen does is not recorded in great detail (i don't know how many people here are brits, but the queen is not as exciting as she might be perceived from the usa....)

given that, the rest could be the "natural" trimmings a popular story gets after being repeated over the years....
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 6:56 PM on July 28, 2008


newfers,

I kind of understand the impulse to find the truth, and not just to rely on instincts (or some prejudice against bikers). But if I were said biker, I'd be pretty disappointed to stumble across an allegation that I'd fibbed -- which, given the magic of Google, this will yield. Try searching "Chelle Rutherford London," let alone anything involving Zep. Accentuate said risk by quizzing her some more next time. Anyway, you live your life the way you wish.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:03 PM on July 28, 2008


The LSO archive is open to the public and contains complete attendance sheets and diaries from 1968 onward. If you make a request to the archivist (at least a month in advance), you may be able to obtain a copy of this list. via

If I were making a wager, based on just the little research I have done into this today as a result of your AskMe, I would say she is putting you on. The LSO did not come to America in 1992 as far as I can tell, and if the Queen came with them it would have certainly made the news. Therefore, she would have had to travel to London and would be in the archive as in attendance, but I doubt it ever occurred.

If she really is a friend, maybe you could just indulge her and not delve too deeply into this?
posted by misha at 7:11 PM on July 28, 2008


I wish people weren't so harsh here. Why must everyone assume the worst?

I don't think anyone's "assuming" the worst. I'm not, and I was one of the first people to respond. It's a simple matter of accumulated evidence (or lack thereof) and of reasonable likelihood.

Reasons to be suspicious:

1) The choice of the song. I laughed when I saw it. I know bikers come in all types, but the choice of "Stairway To Heaven" is so stereotypical of what a stereotypical biker would think was the perfect grandiose song . . . almost classical in its "movements" and epic bombast . . . that it's nearly too good to be true.

2) The whole bit about the "period of time" in which this 16 or 17 year old spent "contacting the UK" to "get rights to the song." That's not how it works, that was never how it worked. And while I could possibly believe that the teacher of this odd "class project" might want them to learn about some of the mechanics of the music industry, that's not at all how he or she would have gone about it.

3) The fact that an orchestral version of "Stairway To Heaven" just happened to be recorded by the same (very well known and foreign) symphony 11 years prior to her alleged involvement.

4) The oddly unexplained and realistically inexplicable "attracted the attention of the Queen," which makes no real sense, is really really unlikely that it would ever happen and on and on. She dialed the Queen by mistake? The Queen happened to be in the offices of the publishing company who handle "Stairway To Heaven" at the exact time a charming 16 year-old American girl rang?

5) The unlikely odds that someone capable at 16 or 17 of performing with the LSO a) would not already be very well known as a prodigy, and b) would not have long, long ago surpassed a level of accomplishment where turning a rock song into a classical piece - particularly something as goofy as "Stairway To Heaven" - would not be an insult to her talent.

6) The "off the cuff" sense conveyed by claiming "a show was arranged," almost as if the members of the LSO and their famous conductors hang by the phone, awaiting phone calls from the Queen, who has "discovered" a sixteen year old American girl whose recasting of a heavy metal classic necessitates the involvement of the London Symphony Orchestra in a one-off concert - it's that much better than the version they did in 1981!

7) This viola-led rendition of "Stairway To Heaven" - conceived as a high school project - was so good - better than Led Zeppelin's one must assume, for it's doubtful that Led Zeppelin have audiences with the Queen - that Her Royal Highness requested a private audience with this brilliant teenaged American girl.

8) Google searches:
a) "stairway to heaven" viola "London Symphony Orchestra" prodigy (172 hits)
b) "stairway to heaven" viola "London Symphony Orchestra" Pittsburgh (89 hits)

I looked at each of those hits. Nothing close, except links back to here.


Reasons to believe this story:

1) The Biker Chick Code Of Honor

2) Why not?


I like a world where crazy, unexpected and interesting things happen, but this would really be a miracle if it were true.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:12 PM on July 28, 2008 [12 favorites]


Actually, you can easily find out where the Queen was on every single day of her reign since Accession in 1952. The Court Circular is produced daily by the Palace, detailing the whereabouts and official engagements of the entire Royal Family. The online archives only go back to 1998, so you'd need to call Buckingham Palace to find out where to search back issues. I would suggest calling the General Information line ((+44) (0)20 7930 4832); whoever answers would be able to point you in the right direction. This will actually be your better avenue for inquiry; it's possible you have the name of the orchestra wrong, but it's unlikely that you'd have the name of the Queen wrong. One would hope.

According to Wikipedia, Her Majesty made no State Visits to the USA in 1992. While this doesn't preclude her having made a personal visit (as she has done on several occasions), one would imagine that if it were something official there would be some note of it, somewhere. Google finds nothing with several different searches.

Oh, and on the subject of contacting rights holders to use a song.. I did that in high school when I had to make a music video as an assignment. Mostly because it just gave me an excuse to talk to one of my favourite musicians for a few minutes ;) So that isn't necessarily a red flag.

Her being given an audience with the Queen is the major red flag. People generally have to do something relatively extraordinary for that to happen. Much, much more likely is that (presuming the performance took place) the Queen met the performers, shook hands with each of them, and left.

And on preview:

5) The unlikely odds that someone capable at 16 or 17 of performing with the LSO a) would not already be very well known as a prodigy, and b) would not have long, long ago surpassed a level of accomplishment where turning a rock song into a classical piece - particularly something as goofy as "Stairway To Heaven" - would not be an insult to her talen

Is right on the money. You simply do not perform with an orchestra on the level of the LSO without attracting serious attention long, long before it happened.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:23 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wish people weren't so harsh here. Why must everyone assume the worst?

I think people "assumed the worse" because the posted question was "Could she be fibbing?"

You added the "Does anyone have any magical skills to help me find some info on the net about this meeting with the Queen?" part to the end of the more info inside.

When read together it seems less like you are asking "Help me find a cool way to commemorate this event for my friend" and more like you are asking "I suspect my friend is lying. How can I figure out if she is?"

My apologies if you didn't mean it that way, I'm simply trying to explain how the question apparently appears to many of us before you so accuse of us being harsh, hating bikers, etc. etc. We're just trying to help you answer your question. In the future, it might help to put your actual question first, and spell it out clearly. We're only human, and we only have the information you tell us - if you first and foremost "Could she be lying?" we'll assume you're mostly interested in finding out if she's lying.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:40 PM on July 28, 2008


Surely the event was written up in the Pittsburgh newspapers. Find a friend who has Lexis/Nexis or Westlaw, and you'll find full-text databases of major daily newspapers. Run a search there. If it's not written up there, that strongly suggests it didn't happen. A local girl having an audience with the Queen would have been written up.

I care because I would LOVE to print out newspaper articles documenting the occasion, to give them to her when my friends and I see her again at another event in August.

Is it just me, or is it seriously creepy that someone who doesn't even know Chelle's last name, and who has met her once, is going to all this effort to "surprise" her with newspaper clippings concerning a past achievement?
posted by jayder at 7:44 PM on July 28, 2008


I wonder if the 'rights' confusion comes about precisely because the LSO had previously recorded an orchestral version of Stairway, and rather than creating her own, she was trying to use theirs?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:47 PM on July 28, 2008


Alright, I confess: my real name's Michael; I come from East Rutherford, NJ; in 1992, while working on a class project, I bumped into this queen on the stairway and thought I was in heaven. Voila!

Seriously, a lot of this might be due to minor details misunderstood from the original recounting -- such as whether it was really an "audience," or took place in Queen Elizabeth Hall. So whatever the misgivings about the tale or the OP's agenda, probably little should turn on any particular detail.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:01 PM on July 28, 2008


I wonder if the 'rights' confusion comes about precisely because the LSO had previously recorded an orchestral version of Stairway, and rather than creating her own, she was trying to use theirs?


It still would be a little weird for a schoolgirl in America playing a rock tune on a viola to:

1) Need to get permission to use a full symphonic arrangement.
2) Bother getting permission even if it were required.
3) Even consider doing such a thing if she were any sort of prodigy.
4) Get attention from the Queen! And the LSO! All for "borrowing" someone else's arrangement!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:07 PM on July 28, 2008


Also, speaking as a one-time high school viola player, I can assure you: no one ever pays this much attention to violists.
posted by scody at 8:16 PM on July 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeh.. ditto scody. Violists tend to be treated like drummers, even though we play the clearly superior string instrument.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:22 PM on July 28, 2008


I'll give a couple of reasons why this might just be possible. Firstly, famous UK orchestras (this might happen elsewhere, but I don't know) often overbook themselves and have to find a way to honor previous commitments. They do this by hiring extras, very good freelancers who are not regular players in the orchestra. Thus half the regular orchestra does one gig and half does another. This probably happens more with an orchestra like the LSO that is famous for recording movie scores, but it isn't uncommon.

The second reason is that this might have been some kind of an education project. Typically some members of the orchestra go in to schools, prisons etc. with a composer and/or animateur (someone who runs the project) and 'compose' a piece with non-professional or non-musicians, and then its performed later, often in a pre-concert before the main full-orchestra gig.

The second scenario seems more likely. So, it might just be possible that your friend had come over to the UK and somehow got involved in an education project with the LSO (in reality three or four string players and a clarinet). This might have been performed before a huge gala concert at which the Queen was in attendance. Thus, your friend might not be lying as much as exaggerating, although that kind of exaggeration is nothing that I haven't seen on professional musician's biographies.

Anyway, as you can see it's a stretch, and it would have to be in the UK, but it is just possible.
posted by ob at 8:26 PM on July 28, 2008


Just to confirm, your friend told you this story, and didn't include the detail of whether the queen came to her or she came to the queen, and somehow you're unable to follow up on this story and ask her that one detail?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:43 PM on July 28, 2008


"1) The choice of the song. I laughed when I saw it."

Well, there was some issue with the original song she chose, which was NOT Stairway, and somehow she settled for Stairway.


Boy, I really need to learn how to express myself more clearly, because never before have I been so misunderstood in my intentions here. Of course, a lot of this is my piss-poor memory as I try to recount it to you here. I'm certain I've gotten things wrong from the way it was told to me, but the key players are in place. I just don't recall the exact details of her contacting the UK back and forth, or whatever supposedly attracted the attention of the Queen. I just don't know!

"this would really be a miracle if it were true."
Um, no, no it wouldn't. Please don't through around nonsense words like miracle to refer to something like this. "Highly unlikely" I would accept! :)
posted by newfers at 8:56 PM on July 28, 2008


"Is it just me, or is it seriously creepy that someone who doesn't even know Chelle's last name, and who has met her once, is going to all this effort to "surprise" her with newspaper clippings concerning a past achievement?"

It's just you... I happen to think it'd be a very cool thing. My friend Lane and I met she and her partner Paul on the net, since I'd posted a video from a biker event, and she was in the video. Lane got in touch, and they became friends, albeit via phone. When we went to this most recent event, they were there, and hung out with us, and were down to earth, sweet people, sober, straight, sensible, yet living a lifestyle that would seem at odds with a clean lifestyle (showing my own prejudices here).

The story she told about playing viola, I took at face value... if it was a lie, it was well-rehearsed.

And yes, part of me wants to know if it is true, of course... and if it has been documented, I would love to print out copies of any news stories to bring along to the next biker event, the Chillicothe Easyrider Rodeo, on Labor Day. They're sweet people, and I think they'd appreciate the thought.

Doesn't mean I wasn't fibbed to, though. Might be the case. Might not. I do not know.
posted by newfers at 9:03 PM on July 28, 2008


"Just to confirm, your friend told you this story, and didn't include the detail of whether the queen came to her or she came to the queen, and somehow you're unable to follow up on this story and ask her that one detail?"

I'm sure she mentioned it, one way or the other. I apparently don't have the skill of perfect recall, as most people seem to.
posted by newfers at 9:05 PM on July 28, 2008


It's just you... I happen to think it'd be a very cool thing.

Okay, but doesn't it seem a bit intrusive to be digging around into the truthfulness of a story you clearly doubt is true ... when the person telling it is someone you consider a friend? Isn't this something we should just let go? If you suspect the matter is a lie, why remove all doubt that it is? It seems classier to just let it rest.

There's a very real possibility that your friend will find out about your internet sleuthing and will be embarrassed, angry, etc., and this doesn't seem like a cool thing to do to a friend.
posted by jayder at 9:37 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would love to print out copies of any news stories to bring along to the next biker event, the Chillicothe Easyrider Rodeo, on Labor Day. They're sweet people, and I think they'd appreciate the thought.

If this special event really happened, wouldn't she already have a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and photos?
posted by Joleta at 9:41 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


She's lying, and everyone's doubt has zilch to do with the fact that she's a biker. She has told a story that is highly improbable. No, it would not literally be a "miracle" if this happened, but it is about as likely as Pat Robertson moving to San Francisco with his new black transgendered female lover. Something fairly remarkable would have to have happened to make this story true. Something approaching a miracle.

As Joleta has finally pointed out, if this person really did have this experience they would have an enormous scrapbook containing clippings and photos. The very best you could do would be the printout from the web or an old newspaper, whereas the clippings she held on to would have probably been kept in a much better condition.

I've never done anything worth printing in a newspaper but if I had I can't think that my reaction to getting clippings 15+ years after the fact would be all that positive.

I'd drop it.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:57 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is simple. You call her up before the next time you're planning to meet and say "Wow, I'd really like to hear more about your meeting with the Queen. Do you have any old articles or pictures I could see?" It's inconceivable that she nor her parents would not have taken pictures or kept articles in a scrapbook, as Deathalicious mentions. She would also be delighted at your interest and would happily bring such a scrapbook.

Of course, if she is fibbing, she is just going to fib again, and the scrapbook was lost in a mysterious fire. If she's not, though, then you're saved from countless hours scouring the Internet, calling the UK, and reading this thread.
posted by desjardins at 7:01 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


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