He’s a Holmfirth man playing piano for the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Former teacher James Robinson, 36, left the classroom at the age of 32 to join the army and is now a lance corporal with the Corps of Army Musicians.
James, 36, who grew up in Holmfirth, regularly plays at state ceremonial occasions, including investitures and banquets at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and St James’ Palace.
He also played in the tri-service orchestra – made up of army, navy and air force musicians – at the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance earlier this year at the Royal Albert Hall in London and at the BBC’s Passchendaele 100 concert in Ypres, Belgium, in July.
The son of former Holmfirth policeman Alan Robinson, James also entertained guests at the British Embassy in Algiers, when the ambassador hosted a party attended by diplomats and business people to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday in April.
James attended Holmfirth High School and studied music at Kirklees Music Services before gaining a music scholarships to Giggleswick School in North Yorkshire. He went on to graduate in music at Oxford University before becoming a teacher.
Before going to university, he played the organ at St John’s Church, Upperthong, and St David’s Church, Holmbridge.
After seven years in teaching, James switched career for years ago, joining the army at the relatively late age of 32.
“I wanted a change, a bit of excitement and the chance to travel,” he said.
“I had three years in the TA in Huddersfield when I left university with the 4th Btn Yorkshire Regiment as an infantryman.”
Commenting on his current job, he said: “I have a very special role in that I only play piano and only play for state ceremonial occasions such as investitures and state banquets. I played at the Duke of Edinburgh Awards ceremony at St James’ Palace and at diplomatic events.”
During the investiture ceremonies, James accompanies a string quartet but also plays up to eight solo pieces, providing background music as the hour-long ceremony takes place.
“We play as the guests arrive to help put them at their ease,” he said. “We play the national anthem at the start and finish and during the ceremony we can play everything from classical – Debussy, Bach or Beethoven – to pop songs of film music,” said James. “We play the national anthem again at the end and then something bright and lively as the guests leave.”
Picking music to match the recipient of the award is forbidden, said James. One of his predecessors at the piano was reprimanded for playing the EastEnders theme as Barbara Windsor walked up the receive her damehood.
James said his proudest moment at the keyboard was two years ago when L/Cpl Josh Leakey, of the Parachute Regiment, received the Victoria Cross at Windsor Castle for service in Afghanistan. The soldier twice came to the aid of a wounded US Marine Corps captain while under enemy fire and helped forces regain the initiative after being pinned down and surrounded in Helmand province in 2013.
James is married to Laura, a member of the Band of the Household Cavalry, based at Windsor, who plays flute – on horseback – at events including Trooping of the Colour and the Changing of the Guard. The couple live in Surrey.