Last Night of the Proms in London is the colourful climax to a spectacular eight-week summer season of concerts in London’s Royal Albert Hall. At the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, we dispense with all the other concerts and go straight to the party.
Adelaide’s version constantly reinvents itself and on this occasion, with the Brexit non exit and UK’s PM Teresa’s May’s resignation, as well as a recent cliff-hanger Australian election, it’s time to banish cares if only for a while and sing with pomp and ceremony at Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Last Night of the Proms, 23 & 24 August, Festival Theatre.
Explain the history of the Proms?
It was in 1894 – the manager of the Queen’s Hall, London, Mr Robert Newman, proposed to the young conductor Mr Henry Wood, his plans of a series of concerts to be held over the English summer. Newman hoped the concerts “…would educate the people about classical music and hopefully make it more popular.” And so, with Mr Wood at the helm, the first of the Proms, or as they were then known “Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts” was performed in London on August 10, 1895.
One-hundred and nineteen years and much history later, the Proms (now the BBC Proms) has become one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals! Consisting of over 70 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, The Proms encompasses symphonic staples performed by major British and international orchestras, to contemporary jazz and pop – even once a world premiere of Dr. Who in Concert
Why do you think the Last Night of the Proms is so popular?
I think it is because of the interactive nature of the concert – how many other classical concerts have the opportunity to clap along, and also sing along? It’s quite unusual!
What is your favourite piece to conduct in the Last Night of the Proms?
Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 – aka Land of Hope and Glory. It is the end of the concert, the audience sings, the orchestra is fired up and usually we have balloons or glitter at the end. It is a festive moment.
Soprano Lorina Gore will take to the stage, you’ve worked with her on numerous occasions, describe her as a performer?
Lorina is wonderful – she has such a clear voice and is fearless on stage, she just goes for it which I love. She truly enters into the spirit of the occasion.
At the Last Night, the more uptight aspects of classical music – the judging of those silly enough to clap between movements, or the frowning at those unable to stifle a cough/sneeze/other-necessary-bodily-sound – are left firmly at the concert hall door? Do you enjoy the non-formality of the concert?
Absolutely. My whole career is about challenging that formality, but it happens within a context where we pay great attention to the music and how it is played. I suppose it is like a top notch restaurant, we still have the starchy table cloths, the beautiful quality glass and china, the best dishes carefully prepared, but as a waiter I try and deliver it all to the table with a sense of fun.
The prommers as renowned for festooning themselves in everything from Union Jack vests, suits and socks to Viking helmets, while carrying an array of flags – mainly U.K, what’s the most unusual outfit you’ve seen in the audience?
Once we had a young couple sitting in the audience wearing Will and Kate masks. Every time I turned around to talk they were doing their slow Royal wave at me.
Do you have a particular outfit, costume you’ll be donning for the concert?
You’ll have to wait and see!
Tell us your favourite British joke?
It’s not a joke but a bit of graffiti that was scrawled on to a poster on the Tube years ago when London Transport was trying to get people to buy return tickets. There was a picture of Henry VIII saying “when I go to the Tower of London I always buy a return ticket”. Then someone had written underneath “but I only buy a single for the missus.”
Do you have a Proms ritual you adhere to before the Proms concerts?
I learn all the music and I try and think of some fresh jokes and some new scurrilous political lyrics for my song set to When I Was a Lad from HMS Pinafore.
For those that have never experienced the Proms – can you tell them in one sentence why they should book their ticket?
I guarantee you will have a good time and leave the Festival Theatre feeling better than when you came in!
Experience Last Night of the Proms on Fri 23 & Sat 24 August, 7.30pm at Festival Theatre