Commonwealth Day is an opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of the Commonwealth’s organisations, which aim to improve the lives of its citizens. It is celebrated on the second Monday in March every year and in 2012 Commonwealth Day was held on Monday 12 March.
The week around Commonwealth Day is known as Commonwealth Week and is marked with a series of activities.
The theme for Commonwealth Day 2012 is 'Connecting Cultures', which is celebrated throughout the year.
The Commonwealth unites 54 countries with diverse cultures around shared values and vision.
In 2012 The Commonwealth celebrates a global community of over two billion people of differing beliefs and traditions, with cultural expression as a vibrant means of identity and exchange.
The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir is the embodiment of the Commonwealth Connecting Cultures theme: it is connecting Commonwealth Cultures by its very existence and does Connect Commonwealth Cultures in all that it does throughout the 54 countries of The Commonwealth.
On Commonwealth Day 2012 the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra played at The Commonwealth Observance which was held in Westminster Abbey in London.
The Commonwealth Observance 2012 was a particulary special event as it celebrated the 60 years which Her Majesty The Queen has been Head of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra played the Commonwealth Anthem for the 54 Commonwealth national flags to be processed down the aisle.
The Queen said in The Commonwealth Day Address: "Connecting Cultures, our Commonwealth theme this year, encourages us to consider the special opportunities we have, as members of this unique gathering of nations, to celebrate an extraordinary cultural tapestry". The Queen continued by recognising the power of music to connect cultures: "by sharing the same music with our own personal interpretations and contributions, the wonderful human attribute of imagination is nourished, and we gain insights of understanding and appreciation of others".
In the evening of Commonwealth Day the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma welcomed The Queen to the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House. On their arrival HM The Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by a performance of the Commonwealth Anthem performed by the Soloists of the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Junior Choir.
At the end of the reception the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir's Artistic Director, Mr Paul Carroll, presented to HM The Queen a framed print of the score of the Commonwealth Anthem.
On Tuesday of Commonwealth Week the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir presented "A Celebration of Commonwealth Youth" at Lancaster House with a performance of words and music.
Speaking at the event Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “The Commonwealth’s theme Connecting Cultures encourages us to explore how The Commonwealth can use culture to build bridges of exchange and understanding. We want these links to be strengthened in new and special ways in 2012 in order to learn and to deepen the appreciation we have of one another. We see before us in the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir a superb example of how music can bring cultures together in celebration.”
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba said: “Music has always been a language that transcends cultural and social barriers – linking people and places, despite their differences.” She added that music is a vehicle through which diversity can be harnessed and congratulated The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir for creating opportunities for musicians of The Commonwealth and for youth participation and engagement.
In the afternoon, while the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir rehearsed for the evening performance, TRH Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall made a private visit to meet the Commonwealth musicians.
On the Thursday of Commonwealth Week, the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra played at The Commonwealth Lecture which was held at The Guildhall in the City of London.
To complete the week of Commonwealth and Diamond Jubilee Celebrations the Soloists of The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra were invited to perform at the Palace of Westminster on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee Address to HM The Queen.