Prom 11 – 23

“You’re really into the Proms, arent you?” asked a colleague when she saw me reach for my Proms brochure to confirm my availability for a post-work drink this week.

“Yes,” I replied, I am. It’s my own personal diary for the summer. Everything is built around what ever is going on in the Royal Albert Hall.

Now I think about it more, I realise the priority is attending as many concerts as I possibly can. For some reason – lost on me at the present time – I  think that if I can’t actually be there in person then my committment to the season is less than it should be.

Shamefully, I got along to only one concert this week. Prom 15 saw me an unexpected recipient of a ticket to a very hot Loggia Box in the hall to hear Nicholas Daniel and the BBC Symphony Orchestra tackle Elliot Carter’s Oboe Concerto – a work I’m in no particular hurry to hear again – and Beethoven Five.

Janine Jansen undoubtedly sparkled in her performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto and clearly wowed the audience in the hall. Ultimatel, however, ultimately anyone was going to find it difficult to overwhelm me with this concerto. It’s one of “those” works which is played out on radio stations way too often. I’ve yet to be reacquainted with it’s inner joy.

Other gigs of note: Dr Who Prom (Prom 13) – I think I’m right in saying there were dancing Cybermen on stage although I’ll wait to see it on BBC One later in the season before I judge exactly how nimble they were.

Wayne Marshall’s organ recital (Prom 22) provided the perfect backdrop for a spot of Sunday afternoon baking and confirmed in my mind that I absolutely don’t have a problem with Messiaen. In fact, I might even go as far as to say I may possibly have become a fan of organ music. Beethoven 1 (Prom 23) from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was also a real winner for me too.

But it was the first Stockhausen gig on Saturday night (Prom 20) which was the real big draw for me. Gruppen featured three separate orchestras dotted around the Royal Albert Hall in the arena and on stage, each playing to a different time signature, each directed by a conductor who clearly had a seemingly tough job keeping things together as far as I could see.

Me and sometime Proms-widow Simon chose to escape to the gallery for the second piece Klang. Simon was tired standing on his feet for half and hour and I was intrigued to hear what the mix would sound like at the top of the hall. I hadn’t heard Klang before that night nor had any real idea what effect the gargantuan soundscape would have on me.

As the weird and wonderful electronic sounds boomed out from the speakers I found myself transported to another dimension. There was something ominous from the beginning of the performance. Unexpected and imposing. The stage was plunged into darkness. Only houselights and the lights from the mixing desk in the middle of the arena. This was a view of the Royal Albert Hall I hadn’t seen before.

The growing cacophany of sound made it seem as the Royal Albert Hall was finally answering back for all those years of concert performances it never enjoyed. Electronic sound combined with the imposing Victorian interior and the sight of prommers laid strewn about the gallery made for an eery experience. An experience brought about solely by sound and light (or lack of it). 

I read blogs where people speak of the Stockhausen Day as a real highlight of this year’s season. Perhaps it is a little early to say, but out of a series of 12 concerts, it will be the 13th hour from Klang by Karlheinz Stockhausen (Prom 20) which will ultimately stick in my mind the most.

Biggest night so far

BBC Homepage promotes the Stockhausen video
BBC Homepage promotes the Stockhausen video

On the one hand, it does seem rather odd to be getting excited about a Saturday night Prom concert the likes of which I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to attend. On the other, however, the Stockhausen Day at today’s Proms was always going to be a bit special for me.

I figured I ought to go to a bit of effort and prepare myself especially for the event (this inevitably contributing to a sense of excitement about the weekend) and in so doing I also managed to overcome a personal fear I’ve had for years.
BBC Homepage promotes the Stockhausen video.
And if that wasn’t enough, I got to see my own face on the BBC Homepage because of it. I was chuffed, proud, lucky and grateful come 7pm when I finally rolled home. That made yesterday the biggest day of the year so far and tonight seem like the biggest night.
I can’t wait.
The Stockhausen Day is live on BBC Radio 3 later tonight (kicking off at 6pm and later at 10pm for a special performance of Stimmung). Catch it on iPlayer later on tonight for a week.

Biggest night so far

On the one hand, it does seem rather odd to be getting excited about a Saturday night Prom concert the likes of which I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to attend. On the other, however, the Stockhausen Day at today’s Proms was always going to be a bit special for me.

I figured I ought to go to a bit of effort and prepare myself especially for the event (this inevitably contributing to a sense of excitement about the weekend) and in so doing I also managed to overcome a personal fear I’ve had for years.

And if that wasn’t enough, I got to see my own face on the BBC Homepage because of it. I was chuffed, proud, lucky and grateful come 7pm when I finally rolled home. That made yesterday the biggest day of the year so far and tonight seem like the biggest night.

I can’t wait.

The Stockhausen Day is live on BBC Radio 3 later tonight (kicking off at 6pm and later at 10pm for a special performance of Stimmung). Catch it on iPlayer later on tonight for a week.

It’s the way I am

I was reminded about the way in which I can usually be relied on to conduct myself, when I passed a family scowering the platform timetables looking for the next train to Gravesend. With the day’s events and numerous conversations weighing heavily on my mind – that journey home takes forever when I’m slightly below par – it was inevitable I’d lose patience with their seemingly constant inability to arrive at a decision.

“That’s the one we want,” signalled the grandfather of the family and obvious self-imposed leader of the group, “The next one is the 1929.”

“Where, I don’t see it,” complained his wife, her nose pressed against the timetable, “I don’t see where you mean. Where?”

“There,” he shouted back, pointing more insistently, “Now where do we get it from. It’s platform three.”

It wasn’t platform three. It was nothing like platform three. I know that. Nothing goes south of London Bridge from platform three. Impatience at not being able to find out when the next train to Hither Green departed fuelled my certainty that the day-tripping family needed advice and did not need platform three.

A firm, practical yet goal-driven approach seemed the best course of action. I waded in accordingly.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked with a charming smile and assertive tone.

“Well, Gravesend, obviously,” replied the grandmother.

Overlooking her impatience, I pointed to the departures screen above their heads. “The 1929 doesn’t go from platform three. It goes from platform five. You’re obviously not going to get that one, so you’re next train is at 1943.”

Clearly impressed with my obvious can-do attitude, one of the ladies in the group turned around and asked, “And where should we go for that one?”

“Well,” I replied, “just keep an eye on the departures screen up there. The 1943 isn’t on there yet because it’s too early. But it should appear at the bottom of the right hand screen shortly.”
“Thank you,” she replied, “you’ve been so helpful.”

“You’re welcome. If you fancied a walk you could always try the departures board at the top of those stairs along the platform. You’ll find all the departures there listed by town.”

At no point did I think for a moment (until I find myself retelling the tale) that I was pointing out the blindingly obvious. And yet, realising that my train to Hither Green also left from platform five in only a few minutes, I quickly trotted up the stairs, over the footbridge and down on to the platform. When I looked over my shoulder I found them not far behind having followed me up the stairs and past the departure board.

It’s not that I’m feeling smug they followed my advice. I’m not necessarily relieved they found their train. I’m more impressed with myself that in a split-second when I observed intense irritation brewing uncontrollably inside me, I felt able to pinpoint exactly what needed to done and how it needed to be done in order to get the irritation out of my system and out of my way.

I sound vile, don’t I? I don’t mean to. What that little exchange reminded me of was how I’m exactly the same in situations where I’m keen to see something completed. If there’s something I know needs doing and I know exactly who I need to speak to in order to get it done, I’m there like a shot talking to all and sundry regardless of their status or personality.

It’s something I feel proud of as I sit at Hither Green station platform finishing this little missive off. It’s also something I know antagonises the hell out of most people I come into contact with.