in which.... I've been promming for two weeks
It’s time for an update. First things first. I’m pretty tired. It turns out that it’s quite tiring going from work to concerts with extreme regularity. It doesn’t actually matter that I’m generally home by 10:30pm, it’s just the boom-boom-boom of get up, go to work, go to concert, come home, attempt to work out what food I need for the next day, go to bed, get up. But it’s tiring in a good cause.
(at some point I’ll do my dishes and laundry…)
I have learned to queue the Proms season ticket holder way. The Proms queue is a lot like church. You see the same people, most of whom you would probably never normally socialise with, time after time, and you talk about an odd mix of random things, but mostly people are opining on the quality of the ‘content’ of the church service - in this case the Proms of the last few days. Was the Beethoven too fast? Was the interpretation of the Rachmaninov too ‘sloshy’? How hard is this piece to sing? How handsome is this conductor? How good was that new violin concerto? The queue has it’s own little rituals, of raffle tickets, carefully placed rollmats and cushions, and collection of programmes and Proms guides for all and sundry . And it exists permanently on the edge of anarchy, which will break out if someone breaks the queue etiquette and doesn’t respond well to being instructed as to proper behaviour or if - even worse - the Proms stewards change the rules on the queue.
I was adopted on the first night by a long-term Proms season ticket holder, and was instructed in the art of bringing a roll mat in order to (a) provide a cushion between you bottom and the floor, and (b) to provide a cushion of space around you, so that people don’t crowd you on busier evenings. I now have a regular spot in ‘my’ bay in the gallery, with my Expert, a couple of percussion student, and a lady from New York who has been coming to the Proms for 25 years. My knowledge of classical music is as nothing compared to these people, and I am a curious pleb.
There’ve been twenty proms, including tonight. I’ve been to eleven. This is what you should definitely catch up on on iPlayer (you should be able to listen to the audio from anywhere).
Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture from Romeo and Juliet and Prokofiev’s Cantata Alexander Nevksy at The First Night of The Proms. I already knew and loved the Tchaikovsky (I love Tchaikovsky) but I’d never heard the Prokofiev, and it knocked my socks off.
Faure’s Reqiuem in Prom 3. Yeah yeah, you probably know it, but it was a lovely performance, especially the In Paradisum
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in Prom 5. It is a glorious thing.
Magnus Lindberg’s Two Episodes and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Prom 13. The Lindberg was a premiere, and I really liked it - it was quite kind-of, uneasy, I think. And then Beethoven’s Ninth is an actual, literal joy. With singing about joy.
Michael Berkeley’s Violin Concerto in Prom 16. Another premiere, and another I really liked. It featured the electric violin, and a tabla, and it was just a bit soothing-eerie (except for the bit with the electric violin, where we all sat up straight with a jolt, but it worked).
Mahler’s Third Symphony in Prom 18. Which. Wow. I have never really properly listened to Mahler, like, with serious attention, and I am now totally converted. It was astonishing. Like life bottled into two hours of orchestral music. I kind of hung over the railing on the gallery and exhaled deeply and managed not to sob at the end. And then I should have gone home.
There’s been one disappointment, sadly, which was the Bowie Prom (Prom 19). I really really wanted to love it. I really liked the approach, which was to rearrange and reinterpret some of Bowie’s songs. And I really liked some of the artists: Neil Hannon has a great voice for Bowie, Philippe Jaroussky’s voice is like if a unicorn was a voice, and Anna Calvi was phenomenal. But. The sound wasn’t great. Some of the artists were even less great than the sound, and worse, some were thoroughly self-indugent. And the way it was kind of hosted but not hosted really broke up any momentum or atmosphere any of the songs got going. And then it ran late, so that I was going to miss the last tube, and I had to do the night bus home, so I’m even more sad about the whole thing.
The Mahler though. OMG the Mahler.