Monday, August 09, 2010

A Prom, but no corsage required

The BBC Proms (or more accurately, The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts) turn 116 this year and I went along to tonight's performance of Prom 32 at Royal Albert Hall, marking my very first Prom and my first visit to the gorgeous and historic arts venue.

I couldn't believe the great seat I had. On the plan the 2nd Tier looks like a real nose-bleeder, but in reality I was front and centre. I was raised up to be sure, but perfectly so: elevated above the heads of the audience, while being far enough back from the orchestra to fully appreciate its beautiful sound. Tier 2 are the baby box seats, with only four chairs in each. My ticket was for a front row seat, so the only thing in front of me was a plush velvet barrier on which I could lean my Proms program booklet. From where I sat, as the orchestra played, they swayed in time with the music and looked to me like giant kelp in the ocean. Weird, but true.

The line-up for this Proms season is really diverse, and the performance I saw tonight was by the European Youth Orchestra. They played Fantasy Overture 'Romeo and Juliet' by Tchaikovsky; Taras Bulba by Janacek (whose name has a bunch of accents that this computer won't let me draw); and they closed with Berlioz's Harold in Italy. I wasn't familiar with all the pieces, but parts of them I know I have heard before. I didn't hum along, don't worry.

Far and away the best parts of the performance were provided by the cymballists/cymbalologists/percussionists. I just couldn't take my eyes off them. At certain points, as the music built to a beautiful crescendo, I just knew the cymbals were going to crash and sure enough, the percussionist banged them together with gusto, and I was so happy. At times he clattered a couple of teensy little cymbals that hardly contributed any noise, which was disappointing. Finally he traded up to the big ones again and clanged away for all his might; it was fantastic.

The Royal Albert Hall has a wonderful concert program lined up for the rest of this calendar year, and I pinched a bunch of brochures from the foyer. I am really keen to see the screening of Lord of the Rings at the end of next month, as the London Philharmonic Orchestra will play the score live (any takers?!). I'm also interested in a couple of awesome Christmas events too, but funnily enough I couldn't bring myself to take the Michael Bolton flyer. Duh.

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