Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip leave from Chelsea Harbour in London on a launch on the first part of their journey in the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant Sunday June 3, 2012 . More than 1,000 boats will sail down the River Thames on Sunday in a flotilla tribute to Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne that organizers are calling the biggest pageant on the river for 350 years. (AP Photo/Eddie Mulholland, Pool)
Updated: June 4, 2012 9:48AM
LONDON — The celebration of the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II is ready to rock ‘n’ roll.
A gala concert kicks off at Buckingham Palace on Monday evening with Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Cliff Richard and Sir Tom Jones heading the line-up, along with younger artists.
Will the queen enjoy it? Her musical tastes are a mystery, and the Press Association news agency reported that she brought a pair of earplugs with her to a similar concert a decade ago. According to The Guardian newspaper, the only song the queen has ever been known to request is “Some Enchanted Evening” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.”
“It may not be that pop or rock is her favorite music, but she has certainly supported us over the years and in return of course we have supported her,” said Cliff Richard, who had his first hit in 1959. “I think she’d probably rather go and see an opera.”
The small Pacific island nation of Tonga claimed the honor of lighting the first of more than 4,200 beacons to be set alight in Britain and abroad to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. The queen will light the final beacon following the concert.
One beacon will be lit in Kenya at the Treetops Hotel, where Elizabeth was informed of her father’s death in 1952, making her the queen.
“We set out to have 2,012 beacons, which would have been the most ever for this type of occasion,” said Bruno Peek, pageant master of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee beacons.
“To have reached double that figure reflects the national and worldwide respect and affection for the queen and the desire to celebrate her 60-year reign.”
After a drizzly, gray start, the weather looked better Monday morning, with a forecast of some sunshine by the time the concert starts. Despite threatening weather, more than 1 million people estimated to have turned out Sunday to watch the queen’s barge lead a 1,000-boat flotilla down the Thames endured heavy downpours at time.
Six participants in the pageant were treated in hospitals for exposure to the cold and wet, and medics attended to about 40 spectators along the river.
Margaret Watson, 73, in the crowd near Buckingham Palace on Monday, remembered watching the Coronation on the television set which her family bought especially to watch the event.
“I am here to say thank you to the queen for all she has done,” said Watson, who came to London from Yorkshire with family members. “I am just so pleased to have lived through her reign.”
Others were less happy to have lived through the rain.
“I have run out of dry clothes and my sleeping bag is soaked through. My tent is ruined,” said Chris Wittington, 46, from suburban Essex County. “But apart from that, it has been excellent.”
“Whether you believe in the monarchy or not, this is just fantastic,” said Beverley Clements, 44, who was with 37-year-old sister Harriet Poppleton. “There may not be much to celebrate at the moment, but there is a great sense of Britishness here at the moment.”
Exercising her royal prerogative, the queen is expected to attend only part of the concert. Ten years ago at a similar concert celebrating 50 years of rule, the monarch reportedly came prepared with a pair of earplugs.
Elton John is set to perform “Your Song,” “I’m Still Standing” and “Crocodile Rock.” Tom Jones will pose the question, “Why? Why? Why?” in the song “Delilah,” while Annie Lennox will sing “There Must Be An Angel.”
Kylie Minogue and Stevie Wonder will play a medley of greatest hits, and Paul McCartney will play “Live and Let Die,” his James Bond theme. American soprano Renee Fleming will perform with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
The 262 residents of the remote island of Tristan de Cunha, a British territory 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from any other land, are combining their Jubilee beacon with some environmentally conscious gardening. They are lighting their fire with invasive species including the New Zealand Christmas Tree, loganberry and other alien plants.
“You don’t get more patriotic than saving U.K. wildlife on the queen’s Jubilee, so we decided to make the occasion by lighting a beacon made from all the plants we remove,” chief islander Ian Laverollo said.