Blue Peter

John Williams
Star Wars – Main theme
What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?
Paraire Henare Tomoana
Pokarekare ana
Richard Wilkins
Pirates on Parade
The Nutcracker – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Peter Grimes – Storm Interlude
Cameron Sinclair (arranged)
Kupururudza from Mbira
Cinderella – Waltz and Midnight
La mer – Dialogue du vent et de la mer
Ron Grainer
Doctor Who – Main Theme (arr. Christopher Austin)
Pomp and Circumstance March No.1

Liz Barker, Zoe Salmon & Gethin Jones – Presenters
Paul Kieve – Sorcerer
New London Children’s Choir
Prince Consort Percussion/Kevin Hathway

BBC Philharmonic
Jason Lai

Reviewed by: Chris Caspell

Reviewed: 23 July, 2005
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

So how do you get a group of youngsters into the Albert Hall on a Saturday morning without promising them Christina Aguilera? Serve up a feast of favourite classics and add a liberal dose of music from the movies – and tie into the world’s longest-running children’s TV programme. One of Manchester’s musical gems, the BBC Philharmonic, led a well-filled Royal Albert Hall in a race around the world of music. The fast-moving pace ensured the interest of the children was kept, some of whom were well below school age.

The presenters were piped in with the “Blue Peter” theme conducted by the orchestra’s leader Yuri Torchinsky who seemed to delight in putting down his fiddle for five minutes on the podium. Conductor Jason Lai then joined the team. Members of the audience waved to unknown recipients at the other side of the hall, who dutifully waved back; three little girls danced together on the floor of the arena. All seemed oblivious to terrorism threats.

Subtitled “Out of this World”, this Prom began with John Williams’s familiar score for “Star Wars”; then came three pieces for choir and orchestra to introduce the New London Children’s Choir. Singing in unison, apart from a little divided humming at the end of Pokarekare ana, the voices were on occasion drowned by the orchestra. The arrangement of the Drunken Sailor appeared to confuse the singers who were perhaps still in awe at being accompanied by a symphony orchestra.

Pokarekare ana was sung in Maori with clear and accurate pronunciation. This ‘waiata’ (Maori folksong) has become something of an unofficial National Anthem for New Zealanders, more so since Kiri Te Kanawa recorded it – though it has always been famous in New Zealand!

Paul Kieve, magic consultant to the “Harry Potter” films, added a little elementary conjuring during The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – and did more to distract the audience from the music than impress with his procedures. If needed at all, surely something better than well-worn contortionists’ tricks would have made a more worthy entertainment to an only-passable rendition of Dukas’s popular opus.

Kevin Hathway, co-principal percussionist with the Philharmonia Orchestra, is Head of the Percussion Department at the Royal College of Music and an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. He leads two ensembles, one of which, Prince Consort Percussion is as dynamic a group as you could ever wish to meet. Dressed in brightly coloured shirts, and directed by Hathway, the group led an animated audience in Cameron Sinclair’s music influenced by the Shona people of Zimbabwe. From most points of view this was easily the most successful piece in the show. Extended rhythmic lines led to a climactic ‘punch to the sky’ as the Shona villagers, helped by the music and specially brewed beer, conjured the spirits of long-dead ancestors and asked for their wisdom to be passed to those still living.

By contrast the least successful piece was so on a number of levels. The movement extracted from Debussy’s La mer was quite misplaced. The audience of parents and children quickly lost concentration in the composer’s subtle orchestral tapestry. On another level, the orchestra seemed indifferent to the varied colours; the musicians seemed quite content to just play the notes and ignore the music.

The theme from “Doctor Who” heralded our guest-star: enter Dalek, the Doctor’s nemesis, complete with flashing lights and a haze of thick white smoke. After its entrance the silent monster glided around the arena to the bemusement of the children and the amazement of their parents who perhaps would rather have cowered behind the sofa. The music stopped, the Dalek spoke, and the children retreated; the rightful order of things was restored. Daleks are feared now as they were almost fifty years ago, though today they pose for photo opportunities.

In anticipation of the Last Night’s festivities, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March showed the universal appeal of such a rousing anthem. The opening measures signalled a mass exodus from the stalls-seats into the Arena where a new generation of Promenaders bobbed up and down as their grown-up equivalents will do on 10 September.

As singing voices fell silent to cheers and applause, the BBC Philharmonic piped off the presenters as they had entered, to the “Blue Peter” theme, and with not an inch of double-sided sticky-tape in sight. An ebullient crowd left the hall clutching free programmes and heads turned high to the grey skies of London that threatened to give way to sunshine. It was only a threat. It started to rain.

  • This was Prom 10; Blue Peter was repeated as Prom 12 on Sunday 24 July at 3.30
  • BBC Proms 2005
  • Box Office 020 7589 8212

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