Westminster Abbey Memorial Stone
On November 17, 2009 a service was held in Westminster Abbey to dedicate a memorial stone in Poets' Corner marking the contributions made by Dame Ninette de Valois, Founder Director, Sir Frederick Ashton, Founder Choreographer, Constant Lambert, Founder Music Director and Prima Ballerina Assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn in establishing Britain's flagship national ballet company, along with its sister company Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School.
The memorial stone designed by Stephen Raw was unveiled by The Lady Sarah Chatto, Vice President of The Royal Ballet. The service was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster who gave the address and there were readings by Sir John Tooley, David Bintley and Dame Monica Mason.
The service included solos from works by Dame Ninette de Valois and Sir Frederick Ashton: Satan’s Solo from de Valois’s Job danced by Steven McRae and simultaneously on a second stage by Robert Parker, followed by Natasha Oughtred and Romany Pajdak in the solo from Ashton’s The Wise Virgins. White Lodge pupils Charlotte Edmonds, Thomas Bedford, Magdalena Chan and Ashley Hardwick, performed a new piece choreographed by Liam Scarlett to Constant Lambert’s ‘Rondino’ from his Romeo and Juliet Tableau no. 1. The Choir of White Lodge performed two pieces and before and after the service the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Barry Wordsworth performed excerpts from works in the Royal Ballet's heritage repertory.
Positioned near Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, Stephen’s design has been unveiled at a service on Tuesday 17 November 2009. Stephen’s commission was to celebrate the four founders of the Royal Ballet: Dame Ninette de Valois, Sir Frederick Ashton, Constant Lambert and Dame Margot Fonteyn. He has done this using his distinctive lettering style contrasting with formal capitals for the words THE ROYAL BALLET, THE FOUNDERS.
The stone’s ‘champion’ has been Sir John Tooley (past General Director of The Royal Opera House) who has sought a fitting memorial to the founders in the Abbey for some years. He worked closely with Stephen and saw the design through the various committees.
Stephen’s design, cut in Cumbrian slate by one of Britain’s leading letter cutters, Annet Stirling, also has the added attraction of having the four names in gold. This is the first such use of gilding in an Abbey floor memorial.
The expectation is that many from the world of ballet, including people who just simply love the art of dancing, will go to the Abbey to pay their respects at the nation’s heart for such memorials.
Dame Monica Mason, director of The Royal Ballet said: “It is a fitting honour that the founders of The Royal Ballet are recognised. Dame Ninette de Valois worked tirelessly to establish her companies and school. With Frederick Ashton, Constant Lambert and Margot Fonteyn, she brought ballet to a huge new audience. Through their immense contribution, ballet in Britain is now a thriving art form and The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School are known throughout the world.”