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A Prom Story

In the past seven days, we have been to more concerts than in the seven months that I have been here. The Proms bug has really bitten hard. Mr.R and I have been taking unprecedented steps to get to London and back. Due to a tunnel collapse two stations from here, our local station does not have any trains operating. Which means we take a replacement bus to the nearest tube station (or drive/park there) and then take a train from there. What used to take us 45 minutes, now takes a hour and half. But we still made it for some concerts – and what performances they have been!!

3 Aug we watched a spellbinding performance by Ravi and Anoushka Shanker. The Royal Albert Hall was packed to the gills, Indians from all over cramming every seat and standing space. The line for the tickets snaked around two blocks and it was good that we managed to get in. The performance, especially by Anoushka was electrifying. You could hear a pin drop. Ravi Shanker’s age is telling – he’s 85, and it shows. He’s still marvelous though.

Mr.R won two seated tickets for the Prom on 5 Aug on a BBC Radio contest. The seats were below the Radio 3 box and we got a fabulous visual view of the orchestra. I reached the RAH early and picked up my ticket. Mr.R who was coming from work, was trying to make it by the 7.30 opening time, but we didn’t think he would make it by 8 pm, which was a shame, because it’s a long way to travel just to hear 30 minutes worth of music. And then the miracle happened. At 7.30, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra took their place, tuned their instruments and waited for the conductor to start. The audience hushed. And a mike somewhere began to whine. The annoying ‘feedback’ continued for a while. The audience waited. The young conductor at his RAH debut, waited. The foreign orchestra sat and smiled at the audience. The screeching continued. Five minutes later, the conductor was taken off the stage and an announcement was made that they were trying to find the source of the ‘feedback’. This was unprecedented for RAH. I don’t think a concert has ever been delayed since it’s inception for sound problems – AND this was going out LIVE on Radio 3!! At 8 pm, the orchestra was taken off the stage and the sound still continued. An early interval was announced. People, especially those who had long distance trains to catch, asked for refunds, but there was general merriment all around as prommers enjoyed this historic delay! Mr.R got to see the entire concert, which began at 8.30 and finished a little after 10. Somebody up there wanted him to see the entire performance – he’s a lucky man!

Sunday 7 August and we were back in London for an afternoon prom at 4 watching Bobby McFerrin and friends perform for the second time at the Proms. What a performance!!! The man is amazing! Remember him? He wrote and performed the classic ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ which became an anthem for many of us. His vocal improvisations and the things that he can do with his voice are mindblowing! He used his body as a musical instrument, he thumps his chest in time to his voice, making a unique beat ; his fingers tapping on the mike at the same time. He got the audience to sing Ave Maria while he ‘sang’ the orchestral accompaniment all by himself! Also performing with him that afternoon were the African Children’s Choir – a group of 7-11 year olds drawn from the orphaned and destitute children who are receiving their education at several schools in Africa set up by their founder Ray Barnett. ‘Impure Thoughts- an ensemble with Michael Woolf on the piano and Badal Roy on the tabla (and two others on drums and bass) completed the picture. The concert was great fun and he received a standing ovation at the end of it.

Last night we were back again to watch Prom # 35 – “a feast of British Music”, as the Proms Guide calls it. There was a fantastic performance of a rarely heard violin concerto, one that even I, who knows absolutely nothing of such things, enjoyed thoroughly.

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One meets such varied and interesting people at the Proms. There are the regulars, of course. The one’s who stand at the same spot every year. There are some who have been here for decades. This year, for one man, is the 63rd Prom he has attended. Just imagine coming here, for two months every year, for 63 years!! Then there are the people you meet while you stand in the never ending queue for tickets. We’ve made friends with this Chinese couple, who we kept bumping into in the queue. We’ve exchanged email addresses and have stayed in touch.

On the Bobby McFerrin concert day, we got talking with an American couple in the line in front of us. Mr.R got into a discussion about American politics and his fervor is endearing! It was an interesting chat, one got to see a different image of Americans and both Mr.R and I enjoyed it. We’ve exchanged emails and it would be fun to stay in touch. Carol and Charlie, it was nice meeting you and I hope you had a good trip to the UK.

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I hope you MW’s have been recovering from the rain and your days are back to ‘normal’ (whatever that means). You are in our thoughts and prayers. Take care.

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One comment on “A Prom Story

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