Tuesday, 7 August 2012

(My) First Night at the Proms

I love London, and have done so for a very long time. Everything is so close, and so easily accessed. Coming from a person who lives in an isolated village with nothing but the odd bus or a death-trap cycle ride to get you anywhere, a city with a fleet of buses passing every ten minutes, endless trains, the tube and if you're in the right place, the DLR or a tram, is nothing short of paradise. And they're necessary, because there are so many places to go.

I'm currently staying in London working at the Olympics, which is tough and seemingly non-stop, although I have so far enjoyed two whole and precious days off. Before I came to stay I was vaguely thinking that I'd use this time to sleep, laze around the house, do some casual revision for a looming exam. I'm not sure why I thought that. Firstly, once you're in the routine of getting up and getting out very early, it's hard to get out of it. Secondly, these are the gorgeous months where I can meet up with my non-uni friends as much as I like, and I wasn't about to waste over two weeks without seeing any of them.

So it was that on Wednesday 1st August 2012, I met up with my wonderful Yuna, London side-streets (and the shops they contain) were explored, the National Gallery was visited (she'd never been!), and our very first prom was attended. For those who don't know, the BBC Proms, or The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC, is an 8-week season of daily orchestral classical music held in the Royal Albert Hall. They have a different programme each night, and they all last about two and a half hours with an interval. The first Prom was in 1895, and they now stretch to including about 100 concerts each year. Our clarinet teacher had been encouraging us for several years to go to one, and finally we made it.

The proms are great because they're so unrestricted. I'm sure a lot of people read "orchestral classical music" and shuddered, but is it just because you've never really heard any? By that I mean live, in a venue with beautiful acoustics, and a crowd breathless and silent with anticipation. That's how orchestras have to be appreciated. Unless it's an especially popular programme on that night, 'prommers' can just rock up an hour and a bit before the concert's due to start, queue (sit on the wall) outside the Albert Hall, pay a fiver to get in, and stand in the arena listening to music you will either love, or hate, or just appreciate for what it is. And hey, you paid 5 quid, who cares what your reaction is. At least you felt something, right?

Luckily the BBC Symphony Orchestra, joined later by the BBC Proms Youth Choir, affirmed my faith in the beauty of orchestral that night, my favourite being the Adagio by Strings by Samuel Barber (youtube is your friend, it's likely that you'll know it!) The instrumentalists were so disciplined, so in love with the music they were playing, and it makes the whole experience unique. The notes hang in the air, wrap themselves around the welcoming audience, take each and every person to somewhere different in their mind. It's surprisingly difficult to express the captivation the Proms holds, but all I can do is encourage each and every person to give them a try.

The night was ended by bumping into friends not seen for a while and Japanese curry from a take-away by the name of one of my favoured nick-names. Need I add that it was a perfect day? Thank you, London, for being wonderful, and for containing wonderful things. It is certain I will be back. It's unfortunate I can't drag everyone I know to a Prom with me, but there are a certain few I know I shall persuade.

You have until the 8th September! Go, go!

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