Antony Inglis conducts the National Symphony Orchestra on the Royal Court Theatre stage on Cunard's Queen Mary 2



We've been running voyages with the NSO for 15 years now! Can you share any favorite moments during that time?


Anthony Inglis: At one of the first passenger choir experiences, a lady came up to me at the first rehearsal and said we had fulfilled her lifelong ambition. When I asked her why, she replied that 80 years previously, as a young girl at school, her music teacher had said that her voice was so awful, she was never to sing in school assemblies but to mime, otherwise she would ruin the sound. She had been so intimidated by this, she had never joined a choir despite wanting to sing and having a yearning to do so. Now, because on Queen Mary 2 we don’t audition but it’s done on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and everyone is welcome, she had been able to sit amongst people who also had that passion to sing… and she no longer had to mime.


Justin Pearson: The very first Transatlantic Crossing we made with Anthony Inglis on board Queen Mary 2 remains very fondly in my memory. The excitement of finding my way around the ship for the first time (it took me several days before I knew whether I was at the aft or stern), exploring all this amazing ship has to offer, adjusting to the pace of life on board where meals are elegantly unhurried, walking the decks, scouring the horizon for whales and dolphins, sleeping soundly lulled by the motion of the sea. Most especially, when all the orchestra arose early in the morning to witness our first arrival in New York by sea. There is no other way to experience this: standing on deck with the sharp, bracing, morning air and as the stars give way to the early morning light of sunrise, revealing the tops of skyscrapers emerging from the horizon, followed by squeezing under the Brooklyn Bridge, past the iconic Statue of Liberty, and finally arriving right in the heart of unique landscape that is New York. 


Captain Hashmi: It was over a social encounter at a Cunard event in London that Anthony Inglis casually invited me to perhaps perform with him and the NSO on board Queen Mary 2.  And some four months later with yes, hours and hours of practicing I suddenly found myself playing a solo piano piece with the orchestra on stage with Dohnányi Variations on a Nursery Rhyme. I have had the privilege and honor of being invited to play with the NSO twice, including being invited by Mr Inglis to even conduct his orchestra. I’m by no means a concert pianist by any stretch of the imagination; it was the longest 12 seconds on stage for me, but the most fun of course!

How does performing at sea differ to performing on land?


AI: The obvious one is movement. It is disconcerting, however slight, to try and put bow to string, or mouth to mouthpiece, and feel the instrument moving from underneath you. However, we are very fortunate to be on Queen Mary 2, a liner built for the North Atlantic. There is very little movement, even in some of the worst weather the Atlantic can throw at us.


JP: When the NSO is performing in the UK, we meet for rehearsal in concert halls, in studios for recordings, and for musical theater in West End theaters. When our performance is finished we all scurry off to our respective homes. Often travel home can be late at night from a regional concert hall; a full night's sleep is a rare commodity, as we might be working the following morning, and might be required to be at an airport for an early check-in. On board Queen Mary 2 we have the luxury of being very close to our performing spaces. I am constantly early at rehearsals and performances, because I cannot get used to only leaving 10 minutes before I am required to play! Likewise, our audiences attend performances, but we rarely get to meet them in our normal performing lives. One of the great pleasures of being on Queen Mary 2 is that we can talk with guests and hear about their shared passion for music, their observations and kind words about our concerts. I have had many conversations with guests that have resonated with me over the years. Everyone has a story to tell, and many of these life stories are truly remarkable, received from guests whose modesty and humility is truly affecting. On Queen Mary 2 we are all fellow passengers brought together in a shared passage, a point in time, an experience that is shared in equal measure.

Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra smile with Captain Hashmi at the front of Queen Mary 2

How do the guests respond to the performances on board?


AI: As 2024 is the 15th anniversary of our first Transatlantic Crossing, we have been one of Cunard’s longest-serving Event Voyages, and are very fortunate to be an eagerly anticipated crossing not just by the guests but also the officers and crew of the ship. Providing we live up to everyone’s expectations (and fortunately we always do!), we are greeted by standing ovations at every performance. You won’t be surprised to know that we consider Queen Mary 2 to be the greatest ship afloat!


JP: The guests who sing in the choirs are always the most powerful. Within just a few sessions working with international conductor Anthony Inglis, they have a shared bond with fellow passengers who have signed up to take part in the concerts. Inglis's musical expectations in rehearsals, tempered by great humor and fun, mean that the choir feel the thrill of live performance, often watched by their astounded fellow guests in the theatre as they sing in harmony and work with a professional discipline after such a short period of work. 


CH: The NSO, under the conductorship of the most-eminent Mr Anthony Inglis, is a fixture in the Cunard calendar not to be missed. The NSO performances figuratively “lift the roof” with their captivating and most-entertaining musicianship and Mr Inglis’ inimitable showmanship. The audiences during the NSO performances on board are all on their feet, singing, waving flags and one could easily mistake the atmosphere on board for the Proms!    

Will there be an encore?

Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra return to Queen Mary 2 on October 4, 2024 and again on September 3, 2025. Find out more about the 2024 and 2025 voyages, and book your stateroom online today for an unmissable Event Voyage.

On board with Cunard