Concert kicks off queen's jubilee
LONDON, England -- Queen Elizabeth II was joined Saturday by thousands of music-lovers in the grounds of Buckingham Palace for a classical concert to mark the monarch's 50 years on the throne.
The concert, featuring conductor Mstislav Rostropovitch and opera diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, was the first official event to kick-off four days of celebration in the queen's Golden Jubilee.
Other events will range from tea parties to services of thanksgiving and fireworks.
About 12,000 concert guests, who won their tickets in a lottery, attended the Prom at the Palace in the first public concert ever staged in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
Giant video screens were set up to broadcast the concert nearby in Green Park and the Mall as well as in 10 other cities around Britain.
Other stars performing on Saturday night included operatic duo Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu as well as Zenaida Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle of the Royal Ballet.
The national royal celebrations are centered in London, where 47 members of the royal family, including the Prince of Wales and his teenage sons Prince William and Prince Harry, are due to take part.
In addition to the jubilee, England is scheduled to play its opening World Cup soccer match Sunday against Sweden. The queen reportedly will miss the match to attend church services.
Lord Sterling of Plaistow, chairman of the Golden Jubilee Weekend Trust, which is responsible for organising the events of the next few days, told the BBC: "Whatever happens, it is a plus. Hopefully England will win, in which case there will be a zip. Even if they don't win, they are not out, so the excitement is still there."
Only 1.5 million are set to leave the country for the weekend. Instead, Britons are choosing to stay at home and make the most of the unusual time off.
"The draw of being in Britain this weekend, with the World Cup and the Jubilee celebrations, is quite strong," a spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents told the Press Association.
More than 10,000 police officers will be on duty over the next few days for the Golden Jubilee celebrations in a multi-million pound security operation.
Senior officers told PA there is no specific terrorist threat to the event, but nothing has been left to chance.
A parade is planned in Windsor on Monday, and the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will travel through London in a gold state coach to St. Paul's Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving.
The queen also launches the People's Party in Slough the same day when partying will begin nationwide although some streets managed to get a head start on Saturday. Monday and Tuesday, have been declared national holidays.
A pop music concert scheduled for Monday night will include performances by former Beatle Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Annie Lennox, among others.
A chain of nearly 2,000 beacons and bonfires will be lit around the world to mark the Jubilee event, which will culminate in a display of fireworks launched from the roof of Buckingham Palace.
The beacon-lightings are a nod to the past -- similar beacons were used the last time Britain celebrated a Golden Jubilee -- for Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria in 1887.
Tuesday sees a majestic Jubilee procession, with the Queen and Duke riding in the magnificent Gold State Coach to St Paul's Cathedral for a Thanksgiving Service.
Keynote speeches by the queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a Guildhall lunch in the City of London, will set the scene for a colourful Festival in The Mall with 20,000 people taking part.
The four days of celebrations will culminate with a balcony appearance by the Royal Family at the Palace and a flypast by RAF jets, the Red Arrows and Concorde.
Elizabeth, 76, was 25 when she became queen upon the death of her father, George VI, in 1952.
But 2002, the year meant for celebration of the anniversary, has been darkened by the deaths of her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and her younger sister, Princess Margaret.
The losses seem to have boosted the public's fondness for the queen, who has been travelling around Britain and the Commonwealth of its former colonies on a jubilee tour.
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