Yes, I did it. Finally. After six years of working for the organisation that puts them on, twice attending Proms in the Park, annually watching a good few concerts on the tellybox and ‘always meaning to’, I went to see a Prom. Yay.
The gig in question was Prom 23; Beethoven’s 4th, Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 5 and Liszt’s Dante Symphony. Those demonstrating their skills were Stephen Hough (tinkling the ivories), Julia Doyle and the CBSO Chorus provided the vocals and the BBC Philharmonic set the whole thing to music (under the stick-waving of Gianandrea Noseda). Perhaps that means something to you.
Heather was to be my gig buddy for the night. After queuing up for around half an hour around the back of the Royal Albert Hall, she appeared (both mysteriously and magically) just before the doors opened. Thus avoiding having to queue (and endure a conversation with me). Having made the cut, and having paid only £5 for an arena day ticket, it seemed appropriate to celebrate with beer. This is where the night’s first (and, if I remember, only) mistake came into being: visiting one of the Royal Albert Hall’s bars. Expensive, not very nice, beer in a flimsy plastic beaker. Bleurgh. A much better idea, for the drinkers, is to visit the Imperial College student union bar. A pint of beer and a gin and tonic for £4.40, real glass to drink out of, and a lovely beer garden to drink in.
It’s quite a strange crowd that goes to The Proms. Among other more normal sites, a couple were laid out on the floor, heads resting on a bag. A lone woman spent the whole concert sitting on the floor, cross legged, playing with an iPad. An elderly couple in the front row listened to the whole event with there eyes closed. More surprisingly, so did a number of people who were standing on the arena floor. A few of them were swaying, most were resolute in their stillness. Then there were those who decided to do what I can only think of as the classical equivalent of playing air guitar. Air conducting?
I’m not best placed to review the music of the night, so I’ll leave that to my colleague David (who was also there with a decidedly more high-brow crowd). I’ve not sought his permission, so hopefully he’ll either never read this or not at all mind:
The Beethoven was rather leaden, the Saint-Saëns fun but a tad shallow, and the Liszt dragged rather. Otherwise, it wasn’t too bad!
So there you have it.