He's played for kings and queens, princes and paupers. Now, Christopher Warren-Green is feverishly preparing for the assignment of a lifetime.
Warren-Green, 55, the musical director of both the London Chamber Orchestra and the Charlotte (N.C.) Symphony, is in charge of music for Prince William
and Kate Middleton
's wedding this month
, conducting the LCO in a special program of music during the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The young couple couldn't have picked a musician with a better pedigree for the job.
Trained as a violinist and now a conductor, Warren-Green has been performing for royal audiences since 1981, when Prince Charles invited him to give a concert in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace – the same room where Johann Strauss Sr. played for Queen Victoria at her coronation in 1838.
"I remember meeting with the Prince of Wales afterwards in the music room of the palace, and he was so thrilled, and he said, 'I just love opening the place up for things like this,' " Warren-Green tells PEOPLE. "Any occasion when you're asked to perform for royalty, it always is a tremendous occasion."
Warren-Green also played at Prince Charles's 60th birthday and at his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles, and at Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday in Kew Palace. It's an honor and a privilege, he says, to repay a family who are such great patrons of music. "It's a way of being able to thank them for what they do for us," he says. "It's one family that does such a tremendous amount."
Warren-Green became involved with William and Kate's wedding, once again, through Prince Charles, whom William had enlisted for help with the music. Charles is extremely fond of music – and of Warren-Green, it would appear. "He jokingly – and I will stress this, jokingly, because it's not official – he calls me his Kapellmeister," Warren-Green says, invoking the traditional word for the musical director of a royal court.
The night before he emigrated to America to lead the Charlotte Symphony, Warren-Green and his wife had dinner with Prince Charles at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire. Now, he is thrilled to return to Westminster Abbey to celebrate Charles's son and his new wife in song.
"Musically speaking, it's perfect," Warren-Green says of the venue. "The loft where the orchestra plays is huge and the fanfare trumpets and the state trumpets are all dotted around – and I'm not going to say where – but in various magical places in the Abbey. And from that standpoint, in the middle of the Abbey, you can fill the entire nave and the transepts and the choir with sound. I think it's going to be very magical indeed. I really do."