Thursday, 10 August 2017

First Night of the Proms...

If you'd been in the vicinity of the old Queen's Hall (destroyed by a bomb in World War Two) in Langham Place 112 years ago today, chances are you'd have been going to the First Night of the Proms. The very first night. Because it was on the 10th August 1895 that the first ever Promenade Concert took place, under the baton of Sir Henry Wood.

They were the brainchild of impresario Robert Newman, whose declared aim was to 'educate the public by easy stages' - popular pieces first then slowly introducing more challenging repertoire as the public (who were allowed to eat, drink, smoke as well as 'promenade' as the music played) grew accustomed to the concerts. A sort of 'Classic FM' if you like. But live. And without the ads.

They proved hugely popular and there can't be many people in the country unaware of the fact that they're still going. Going strong, in fact. As the BBC Proms the current season is now approaching the half-way point of its annual eight-week run. Other 'Proms' might be available - especially the ubiquitous 'last night' - but the BBC season is among the real jewels in the crowd of classical music. And not just in the UK.

My first direct experience of the Proms was as a performer with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir back in 1990. We did Janacek's Glagolitic Mass and the thrill of taking part in such a fabulous event completely made up for the fact that the concert was on a Sunday and the coach didn't get back to Liverpool until 2am. I finally got to bed about three in the morning. And I was at work the next - the same - day.

Here's a clip. I'm standing underneath Sir Henry Wood's statue. You can just about see me if you look really closely. But don't. Listen to the music instead. And imagine being there, singing it!


In response to an overwhelming post bag of at least one request to make myself more visible, I am adding a screenshot of the offending frame. As I said, I'm pretty much directly underneath Sir Henry, next to a chap with a rather splendid ginger beard and beside another rather follicly challenged (then) member of the BBC Singers (as I recall)... 

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