Fanfare for the Common Man
Blue Peter Theme [arr. Murray Gold]
Peer Gynt – In the Hall of the Mountain King
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Harry’s Wondrous World
The Sound of Music – My Favourite Things
Loay Loay Aaja Mahi [arr. Sarah Moore]
Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna [arr. Kay Charlton]
Dhoome Medley [arr. Charlton]
Run to the Edge
West Side Story – Mambo
Kaliedoscope – When Icicles Hang by the Wall
Peter Grimes – Storm Interlude
Pomp and Curcumstance March No.1
Blue Peter Theme
Peter Duncan & Gemma Hunt (presenters)
Connie Fisher (singer)
New London Children’s Choir
Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs
Bollywood Brass Band
Honey Kalaria and Honey’s Dance Academy
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 21 July, 2007
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
What an exciting and riveting Prom this proved to be – if one happened to be under the age of 13, a parent accompanying a youngster or someone engrossed in the latest Harry Potter book, which a large number of the people at this Prom were reading, it having been on sale for less than twelve hours!
What is the Blue Peter Prom for? Glancing at the programme does not seem to offer any answers as it was so much of a mixed bag (or ‘dog’s breakfast’, if one felt on the cruel side). Popular ‘children’s classics’ were available, and they were very popular, too, with a number of children giddy with excitement when the Grieg piece was played, which was wonderful to see. But what was the Bollywood Medley for, really? It does not seem to fit with the Proms and, in any event, there are plenty of exciting pieces to captivate the audience. Some Wagner or Beethoven perhaps?
Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was an ideal start: it got everyone’s attention (great timpani and brass) and any light chatter was overwhelmed. It was also very well played, though a little rushed. The Blue Peter theme received sprightly treatment, though not until there had been much laboured talking from hosts Peter Duncan and Gemma Hunt (they offered their thoughts throughout the concert): the ‘real’ Blue Peter presenters were away in Bolivia!
Harry Potter had to have an appearance. What was striking about this music was how little of the magic it conveyed of its subject. Film music is often tricky in this respect, given that it relies on the visual as well as the aural, and much of this music, beyond the first few bars, is of the background type. The audience seemed to lose its attention rather quickly.
There were quite a few birthdays to celebrate: it is the 80th-anniversary of the BBC’s association with the Proms (someone should have told the presenters that, as they said it was the 80th-birthday of the Proms); 100 years of the Scouts Association; and 50 years of Blue Peter. Stravinsky’s short and sweet take on “Happy Birthday” (written for Pierre Monteux’s 80th) was therefore rather apt.
It is interesting to note that Connie Fisher is billed as a ‘singer’ and had to be amplified: every day ‘proper’ singers perform at the world’s great opera houses producing superb, clear tones without aid. Anyway, Connie apparently did what she is known for and, with the choirs, gave a satisfactory account of ‘My Favourite Things’ from “The Sound of Music”. Everyone seemed to know the tune from the part of Prokofiev’s ballet score for Romeo and Juliet known as ‘Montagues and Capulets’. The tempo was rather too rapid and the end proved damp, though there were excellent contributions from the flutes and some of the children waved their hands about trying to conduct … great stuff!
The so-called Bollywood Medley was a collection of ‘popular’ Indian hits that were played by the Bollywood Brass Band (which was also amplified) and danced to by Honey Kalaria and Honey’s Dance Academy on a platform in the Arena. After all of that there was a mandatory lesson in the art of Bollywood dancing that had everyone on their feet.
Jonathan Dove’s Run to the Edge is a commission from the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and is billed as: “a celebration of the adventure of playing in an orchestra, and all the adventures it can lead to”. There did not seem to be much of an urgent feel in this performance (it is a short piece of about three minutes). Because of the billing, one might expect something like Britten’s ‘Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra’, which it most certainly is not: it is much more abstract. Perhaps it is the traditional teacher in me that cried out for this to be more like the Britten.
What was great to hear was some of Leonard Bernstein’s music: more would have been welcome, but the audience participation in shouting “Mambo!” kept everyone listening and watching Tecwyn Evans for his cues. Perhaps more of the dance of ‘Lenny’ was needed in this, though. Shakespeare also provided the inspiration for Ronald Corp’s piece lacked atmosphere (difficult to establish in this surrounding) and was just soft and harmless.
Britten did make an appearance in the form of the ‘Storm Interlude’ from his opera “Peter Grimes”, but it didn’t really fill the space of the Albert Hall and having the presenters wave blue paper up and down (to represent waves!) proved very distracting. Why can’t the BBC not allow the music to speak for itself?
The morning was rounded off by Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, usually heard at the Last Night. With full participation from the audience and a repeat of the main chorus, this really was like the Last Night, though here an improvement, as that man with the hooter was not here to wreck things.
Tecwyn Evans (from New Zealand) was making his Proms debut, though he has been conducting most of the touring opera companies in the UK. He was a keen participant in this morning’s events, keeping the action brisk and lively. This Prom (No.10) was played again the following morning (as Prom No.12), this latter presentation being broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.