Monday, July 25, 2011

Revisiting Prom: Musical enlightenment at Royal Albert Hall

On Sunday night I accompanied my classmate Anne to Royal Albert Hall as the official videographer for her short film on the BBC Proms, a classical musical festival. The Proms last eight weeks, running this year from July 15 until September 10, and they feature daily music performances. The festival is in its 117th season.

The stage after the Prom 13 performance. The choirs were tiered in front of the organ.

Most of the performances take place in Royal Albert Hall, including the one we attended. The hall opened in 1871 and is named after Queen Victoria's Prince Consort, though he did not live to see its completion. The Hall overlooks the fantastic memorial that the queen erected to her beloved.

Our view of the back of Royal Albert Hall from where we stood in line.

Anne and I had scouted the situation the previous day, and arrived at 5 p.m. to "queue" up for the £5 standing room-only gallery tickets to see Prom 13, a performance of Verdi's Requiem involving the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC National Chorus of Wales, London Philharmonic Choir and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There must have been 500 people on the stage. The music was amazing to hear; the BBC broadcast is available for the next six days or you can listen to this 1939 recording available through the Internet Archive. The gentleman behind us in line, while reassuring us that we would get in, said this was a particularly popular performance every year.

Almost as interesting as the music was the crowd. People brought wine and food into the hall for picnic dinners. Many people in our section never looked at the stage; they simply lay down with their eyes closed and listened to the music. Some wrote in notebooks or worked on laptops as they listened. One gentleman across from us -- clearly a musician -- played his "air" instrument as he listened. (I won't hazard to guess which instrument was his speciality. Definitely not guitar though.) Another man had the sheet music and directed the entire piece from our gallery -- baton and all.

There was absolute quiet during the music. Many people, including the usher, removed their shoes so as to not make any noise as they walked. There was no rustling of papers. No unzipping of bags. No ringing cell phones. No talking. Not even coughing -- then there was a flurry of it as soon as each movement ended. I have never experienced such rapt attention anywhere in my life.

Here's a link to Anne's video:

No comments:

Post a Comment