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In January, Richard Smith received an order request to the North Yorkshire workshop he converted from a cowshed attached to his home. It was a Ministry of Defence official requesting 20 state fanfare trumpets - the first five of which needed to be ready for March 14.

The exact purpose for the specially-crafted instruments, silver-plated and stamped with the royal coat of arms, was not stated, and indeed remains undisclosed. But news of a recent engagement told the 73-year-old Smith everything he needed to know...

Meet the man making the royal trumpets for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding



Richard Smith with one of his completed trumpets Credit: Lorne Campbell/Guzelian


Joe Shute
11 March 2018
The Telegraph

In January, Richard Smith received an order request to the North Yorkshire workshop he converted from a cowshed attached to his home. It was a Ministry of Defence official requesting 20 state fanfare trumpets - the first five of which needed to be ready for March 14.

The exact purpose for the specially-crafted instruments, silver-plated and stamped with the royal coat of arms, was not stated, and indeed remains undisclosed. But news of a recent engagement told the 73-year-old Smith everything he needed to know.

For Smith and his 57-year-old technician Richard Wright, it has been a busy few months to ensure the expertly-made instruments are ready in time for the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce their engagement Credit: Paul Grover

When we meet a few days before the delivery date - when members of the Household Cavalry and the Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire, Barry Dodd CBE, will arrive at his farmhouse to inspect the first batch of trumpets - they are yet to return from the silver-platers in Sheffield.

It is “nail-biting” Smith admits, and that is not to mention the moment when the trumpets are raised to serenade the Queen and Prince Harry’s new bride.

“Bum notes are the thing,” Smith winces. “These are extremely difficult instruments to play. You can expect some bum notes every now and then.”


The trumpets being made for the royal wedding are comprised of 42 parts Credit: Joe Shute

Then again, this will not be the first state occasion when Smith’s trumpets have made an appearance. Since his company Smith-Watkins was first commissioned by the Ministry of Defence in 2000, he has supplied every military band in Britain. His fanfare trumpets played a starring role in the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, and 35 specially-designed gold plated herald fanfare trumpets were also commissioned to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

When the Queen attends the state opening of parliament it is to the sound of Smith’s trumpets, and equally so upon arrival at the Royal Albert Hall for the annual Festival of Remembrance. They are even used to mark the beginning and end of the Grand National, as well as in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

“I’m not sure if the Queen knows who we are but I’m very excited every time I see them in use,” he says. “I’m thrilled, to be honest.”

Trumpets have a long association with the British monarchy. In 1937, fanfare trumpets with valves were specifically designed to mark the coronation of King George VI.

The sort Smith has been commissioned to design for the royal wedding have no valves and as a result are fiendishly difficult to play. He offers me a trial blast and all I eventually produce is a short, laboured squeak.

Richard Smith is a keen student of trumpet history and says the earliest version of the modern instrument discovered in Britain is the ‘Billingsgate Trumpet’, excavated in 1984 from the muddy banks of the Thames, where it is believed to have been dropped in the 14th century by a ship’s musician. It is now held by the London Museum.

Over subsequent centuries, numerous monarchs travelled with trumpets and kettledrummers to herald their arrival; Smith says that when King Charles II returned to London to reclaim his throne in 1660 following the death of Oliver Cromwell (who himself had a personal trumpeter), it was to the blast of a pair of instruments not dissimilar to the ones he designs today. “It does get people’s attention I suppose,” he says.


Smith says that when King Charles II returned to London to reclaim his throne in 1660 following the death of Oliver Cromwell (who himself had a personal trumpeter), it was to the blast of a pair of instruments not dissimilar to the ones he designs today

Richard Smith, who started Smith-Watkins in 1985 and is one of the few remaining artisans in a world of increased mass-production, has always been obsessed by sound.

As a youngster growing up in Chelmsford he managed to get hold of an old Bomber Command radio which he spent hours fiddling with at home. “It was a beautiful thing,” he says. After serving an apprenticeship at the now defunct telecommunications company Marconi, where he learnt the basics of metalwork, he undertook a masters in woodwind sound and PhD in brass sound at Southampton University.


Technician Richard Wright in the workshop Credit: Lorne Campbell

The science of sound still fascinates Smith and informs the design of his instruments. He keeps a laboratory in a room at home, where various trumpets are rigged up to various recording software. “When I started making instruments I always imagined I was the air pulse travelling down through the mouth piece form the lips and going into the tube,” he says.

The fanfare trumpets ordered for the Royal Wedding are made up of 42 parts. Smith orders the brass tubes in 3m lengths, which are then sculpted on a special hydraulic table built for him by a farmer down the road - the tubes are then bent into shape before the instruments are assembled piece by piece.

The bell (the splayed end of the trumpet) is ordered in from a special designer in Ipswich; the ball, which is used as a grip, comes from Huddersfield. The detail is painstaking; the accuracy of the tubes needs to be down to less than a thousandth of an inch.

Before being silver-plated, a special serial number is etched upon the instrument, while the final flourish is to attach a banner bearing the Royal coat of arms.

And then, Richard Smith can breathe a sigh of relief and consider his work done. All that is left is to watch proceedings with his heart in his mouth – and pray come May, the great and good gathered at Westminster Abbey do not bear witness to any bum notes.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thin...rkles-wedding/
Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 11th, 2018 at 06:26 AM..