Prom 40: 6 Music Prom

Steve Lamacq and Tom Service at the BBC Proms
Steve Lamacq and Tom Service at the BBC Proms

This Prom had an on-air billing as a collaboration between two seemingly disparate radio networks: 6 Music and Radio 3 and featured performances from the Stranglers, Cerys Matthews and the London Sinfonietta.

“A couple of years ago I felt a little bit guilt about knowing nothing about classical music,” said Lamacq as he and his on-stage cohort, the clearly very excited Tom Service, introduced the thinking behind the collaboration. “And so I wondered whether there were other 6 Music listeners like me who would love to know about classical music but were too afraid to ask.”

I’ve yet to find any non-classical music devotee who displays any signs of being “too afraid to ask” what the subject is all about, just as I don’t feel particularly intimidated to ask friends who listen to 6 Music about the stuff they like.

Those who appreciate music (regardless of style) bond because of it. In my opinion, what effortlessly unites both Radio 3 and 6 Music listeners is their discerning tastes, their passion and – I’d suggest – their openness to new musical styles. It is that audience demographic which the London Sinfonietta, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival have reached out for at least the past fifteen years and which the big mainstream bands like the LSO, Philharmonia and LPO (not forgetting the great work the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have done over the past few years) have cottoned on to recently.

Had the great John Peel been alive, this would undoubtedly have been his gig. Tonight though, Messrs Lamacq and Service did their bit to unite the ‘young’ with the seemingly ‘starchy’ employing a mixture of gentle jibes, heartfelt thanks and appreciation and mutual respect. Sometimes it felt a little laboured.

London Sinfonietta at the BBC Proms
London Sinfonietta at the BBC Proms

When the music started, I relaxed a little more. This largely down to the creeping realisation that I – as a classical music devotee – heard considerably more familiar stuff than I thought I was going to. I wasn’t peering at a tub-thumping gathering wishing it would just stop so I could continue reading War and Peace. Instead it felt to me like a late night get-together at a beach-side bar where last orders were taken shortly before the last man fell. Bar the presenters on stage, this felt like an indulgent escape from all the classical music I’d heard over the past few weeks. I felt enriched by the running order.

The Stranglers first – check, recognise that and sounds OK. Cerys Matthews – a strange voice to begin with, with a strangely seductive quality after a while. Laura Marlingnever heard of her before but my God she’s amazing and I want to hear more of her. But, it was Steve Martland’s piece which stood head and shoulders over the rest, in part because we were remembering a great composer taken too young, but also because his writing was so tight and so incredibly distinctive as to make appreciation of his obvious skill all the more bittersweet.

This was largely a carbon copy of the Urban Classics prom (arrangements of classic tracks, fused with an orchestra, performed on the Albert Hall stage intended to expand audience reach), but with different repertoire. The Urban Classics Prom marginally had the edge over this one.



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