The musicians and musical instruments have always been a natural part of an army, both in war and in peace: the signals that gave orders to the battlefield, the fast-paced march of drums, harmonious music at parades, worship and religious life. Traditionally in Sweden the most exclusive musicians were the cavalry, which stood closest to the king. Their musical instruments consisted of trumpets and kettle drums, which were considered to be the most important instruments whose sound throughout history were associated with God and the kingdom of Heaven. In modern times, therefore, cavalry musicians only play brass instruments.
Looking backwards a series of milestones were passed approximately at the same time around the turn of the last century. How we work, sound and look has not changed so much since then: 1895 the parade uniform we still use, 1897 the barracks were opened at Lidingövägen where we still are based. By the late 1800s, brass instruments through the industrial revolution developed rapidly and their design is largely the same as today. During this time, much of the music composed still constitutes the essence of our ceremonial repertoire.
At this time, there were two cavalry regiments in Stockholm: K1: Livgardet for horse and K2: The dragoons of the Livregement. In 1927, K2 was shut down and the remaining parts, including the musicians merged together with K1. The musicians became part of K1’s underofficers and sub-commanders.
In 1957 all military music was reorganized, removed from the regiments, standardized and placed centrally under the army. This means that K1’s musicians reorganized but the cavalry music was performed by a sub department of the “Armyband in Stockholm”. The musicians were recruited as students, often young and educated by older colleagues in the band. The higher education degree of “military musician” is still offered at the Royal College of Music.
Fourteen years later, a radical and internationally unique decision to abolish military music in Sweden was taken. The 25 music corps are transferred under the State Regional music organization in 1971. Within a few years, the majority of regional music departments were converted from wind bands to other ensemble forms. In Stockholm there was a riding section from “Stockholms Music”, which managed the Changing of the Guard music on horseback.
In the early 1980’s, the Armed Forces sought alternatives to the State Regional music which led to the establishment of a conscripts music pluton in Strängnäs. In 1990, ten consript trumpeters were added to K1 (Army Dragon Trumpeters) to strengthen the riding department. Already two years later, it became a 25 strong consript musician corps called Livgardet dragontrumpetarkår tasked with playing at the mounted Changing of the Guard. In 1996, Stockholms Music shut down.
Over time, the conscript music corps were given more advanced assignments, which led to the employment of professional musicians once again. The recruitment of conscripted musicians, however, was an uncertain system and even in the 1990s there were also short-term employed musicians.The band in its present form is known as the Royal Swedish Cavalry Band.
Since 2011, the entire Royal Swedish Cavalry Band has been permanently staffed with professional musicians educated outside of the Armed Forces.