At last I can say that I've been to a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall! It's another of those things I've been saying for years that I really want to do, and for whatever reason have never got round to it. Well, this year, in the spirit of enjoying more different experiences, I booked tickets to a Thursday evening concert for me and Mum, not knowing any of the pieces on the programme, and off we went.
The BBC Proms run every summer between July and September to showcase classical music in all its many and varied forms, from early sonatas, choral epics, rousing symphonies, early and modern jazz, West End and Broadway show tunes, to brand new commissions. Orchestras and groups from around the world are invited to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, and have now extended to a few smaller venues too, and the whole summer culminates in the Last Night of the Proms in September - this is British pageantry and patriotism at its best!
I haven't been to the Albert Hall for years, since a visit with school, so it was wonderful to re-experience the space again as if for the first time. Surprisingly, it feels much smaller and more intimate in real life than it looks on television - where a high and wide camera angle often expands the space - but the grandeur of the hall is not diminished at all, with the high galleries and ceiling, the huge organ, and a stage set for a full symphony orchestra.
We had got seats in the tiered stalls, but actually looking around, there seemed to be very few spots where you wouldn't have had a good clear view, and in any case, the acoustic is incredible so there is absolutely no chance of you missing even the most quietly played note.
It has to be said that the ceiling is one of the most eye-catching features, the suspended 'mushrooms' casting a purpley-blue light but there for the serious purpose of bouncing the sound efficiently throughout the space.
The concert programme featured the BBC National Orchestra of Wales playing a dance suite by Bartok, a newly commissioned violin concerto by Malcolm Hayes and Dvorak's 7th symphony. The Dvorak was my favourite - I have to say I'm not a huge fan of modern orchestral music as I find it can be quite discordant, though I realise this is often the effect the composer aims for in experimenting and pushing musical boundaries, so although I can appreciate the technical virtuosity of the Hayes concerto, I wouldn't rush to listen to it again. With the Dvorak however, there really is nothing like the sensory bombardment of a symphony orchestra in full flow and at full volume. Every part perfectly showcased, each instrument identifiable, the changing tempo sweeping you along, and the overall effect making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
I had a truly wonderful evening, and with twilight deepening as we left, the building looked magnificent lit up, standing proud, a temple of music.
(Click photos to expand)