Sunday, 11 September 2011

Proms, Last Night of. See also: Balloons, Releasing of

I can report from the Royal Albert Hall last night:

-  A lot of flag-waving - mostly Union Jacks, but also Welsh dragons, some other EU countries and in the middle of the standing Arena, one big, solitary Olympics flag.

-  A brilliant mix of the informal and scruffy, and with-these-Ferrero-Rocher-you're-really-spoiling-us formality. An elderly man wearing a tuxedo and a big green hat with gold fringing stepped aside for me in the aisle and doffed the hat. When I said thanks, he said, 'That's quite alright. I've come as a Russian Admiral.'
Of course you have. It's the Proms, I think you could go in nothing but clingfilm and evening gloves and you'd be received as a wonderful British eccentric.

-  And some very effective photo opportunity spoiling from Amber, who works for the BBC and was in charge of ushering the authorised photographers around and rugby tackling the unauthorised ones.

Photo taken by Rosy, who waited till a pause and so didn't have to be rugby tackled.

Thanks to Amber for the ticket. Thanks to the box office for accidentally double-booking it, and squashing two more seats in a box for lack of anywhere else to put us. A ground-floor, stage-side box. Almost close enough to feel the air move with the orchestra turning the pages of the scores. Almost close enough to reach out and tickle the string section. Although I didn't.


You could watch or listen to the music on the BBC website, rather than rely on a description from me - which since I know almost nothing about music and also have a lingering sense of injustice about choirs after I wasn't allowed into our primary school one, would be inaccurate and maybe prejudiced - but I can tell you a couple of the things that made being there in person amazing.

One of them was Edward Gardner, the conductor, who had that sort of showmanship that makes you realise how tautly even the gentler pieces are held together, and who seemed to be conducting as much with his eyebrows as with his hands. Another was the drum player - a stout, middle-aged man in evening wear. He played vigorously and looked alert like a pointer dog when he wasn't playing, while not losing any of his stateliness. And another were the performances by Lang Lang, which were great to watch even without knowing anything about the pieces, because he looked so delighted to be there.

And then I left around this time -

(Blogger swallowed my cameraphone photo. Let me paint it for you with words instead and also this stock picture, which you should imagine with no Tower of London, and more Royal Albert Hall, and less river but almost the same moonlight.)

- which was about 15 minutes after the bar closed at the party afterwards and about 15 minutes before I was eating beef and ale stew in pyjamas.

And that's how you do the Last Night of the Proms.

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