Prom Review: Prom #1

Chorus from Prom #1 2007

For all the excitement I lapped up hanging around the promming queue outside the Royal Albert Hall yesterday afternoon in the sunshine, the first half of the first Prom didn’t quite sate me in the way I had expected. On radio Paul Watkins performance seemed tidy and mellow. The same performance on TV revealed to what extent he was doing battle with the heat inside the hall. At various points it was clear that his sweaty fingers were causing him some difficulty with the finger board.

Hearing Beethoven’s ninth symphony reminded me that the composer does tend to re-emphasise his musical point a little too much for my liking. Not only that, I was also reminded about how things seem to chop and change quite a lot in the last movement. First one musical idea, then another, then another, shifting gears in unexpected ways.

Having said that, mix we heard on TV (Simon asks that I emphasise the screen is 37 inches not 32 inches as I illustrated in the most recent video) was extremely dry making the overall performance incredibly tight and dramatic. The last movement in particular was a real joy featuring a spirited performance from Rene Pape (bass) and a jaw-dropping contribution from the Philharmonia Chorus and BBC Symphony Chorus, all members of which stood singing without their music in their hands.

And in case you’re thinking, “Pah! You didn’t go to the Hall and listen to it?” bear in mind that us lot at home got to see a clip of the Venezualan orchestra appearing later on in the Proms season so I am, in fact, feeling quite smug I saw it at home. I’m sure I’ll get along next week though.

Most important of all, however, is that what I had thought was an interesting “angle” on all of last night’s music (included in the Preview to #1), did turn out to be absolute bollocks. 🙂 *

Listen Again to Prom # 1 (available until Friday 20 July 2007)

* Many thanks to David England.

Tonight’s Prom: Prom # 1

Programme:
William Walton: Portsmouth Point Overture
Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No.9

LISTEN LIVE @ 7.30pm BST

Given that it’s the opening night of the 2007 season of the BBC Proms (don’t tell me this comes as a surprise, I’ve been banging on about it for ages), it should come as no surprise that tonight’s concert of British and German music is all-inclusive. Nothing difficult to grapple with here.

The first half features music from British composers William Walton and Edward Elgar, both now dead (obviously) but whose works epitomise what some consider are stereotypical images of Britain.

Walton’s Portsmouth Point Overture may be unfamiliar to some but just like one of his more popular works Crown Imperial, it manages to conjure up an evocative image of post-war 1950s hope and positive despite the country suffering the grip of austerity.

Similarly, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto transports me, at least, to an idyllic scene of rolling countryside, cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches. It’s an incredibly powerful association but one which leads me to wonder whether those who are not familiar with this country may possibly have a difficult image in their head when they hear it.

Long as the second half might at first appear – at 70 minutes, Beethoven’s Symphony # 9 is quite a hefty work so if you’re listening at home make sure you get the refreshments prepared to keep you going.

If the Elgar and the Walton conjure up different images of Britain then Beethoven’s Symphony # 9 (known as “The Choral” because of its use of voices in the final movement) evokes an idealistic view of an harmonious Europe. This is probably to do with the adoption of the main theme (known as “The Ode to Joy”) as an unofficial (?) anthem for the European Union.

In the Beethoven make sure you listen out for the solo clarinet line in the slow movement. It’s gorgeous to hear and even more gorgeous to play. I know. I’ve played it myself.

Listen out too for the audience cheers in this concert. The concert goes out live on Radio 3 and can be listened to via the BBC’s spangly Radio Player thingy (and as a catch up service up to seven days after the original broadcast) or using that antiquated wireless thing.

If you listen to it, leave your comments on what you’ve heard on this posting.

I’m getting ridiculously excited

Conscious as I am of how my tragic exploits bringing the world of the BBC Proms to your attention may possibly have failed, I offer up some of the more considered items for your listening pleasure. Tonight from 7.00pm on BBC Radio 3 you can get a terribly helpful preview of some of the highlights of the season in a programme hosted by the marvellous Petroc Trelawney.

Some of the music might be unknown to you, some utterly bizarre, some quite familiar. What your feeling, give it a listen either on the radio from 7.00pm BST on Thursday 12 July. You can listen online by using the BBC Radio Player. If you miss the show you can catchup using the player up to seven days later.

There’ll be a regular thing on this blog because, as all obsessives will appreciate, such large scale events as this are perfect material for bloggers such as myself.

And just to exploit the self-promotion opportunity I have here, the latest Thoroughly Good Proms video is out for your careful consideration, featuring an appearance from one dedicated Yahoo 360er type person.

 

Almost certainly a failed policeman

Penalty Fare

Contrary to what the two men who stood before me thought, I had not deliberately intended to evade my train-fare home.

I’d had an exhausting day. I’d forgone the bike ride home on account of the fact that I’d left White City late. By the time I’d travelled the half hour journey to Tower Hill the prospect of cycling for another 50 minutes was too much. I crossed Tower Bridge and checked my train pass with the men at the gate at London Bridge. They were happy to let me through. I was grateful.

It genuinely hadn’t crossed my mind that just because my Oyster card had let me through the barriers at London Bridge that it may not get me past the two “Railway Enforcement Officers” unexpectedly waiting for me (and a few others, no doubt) at Hither Green in their self-important high-visibility jackets.

To be fair, one of them was marginally more polite than the other. Of course, it was my luck that the less reasonable and on ocassions downright ruder one of the two was one the one who took great pleasure in completing a penalty fare form.

Sure, technically speaking I did fail to get a ticket which would cover the entire journey and so I was in breach of the law. But there I was sporting a smart bag, clearly not someone who is prone to leaping over station barriers or hanging around station platforms with some kind of intent.

Neither of them thought to ask the question I’ve been asked before, “Why didn’t you get a ticket?” They weren’t interested, it struck me. Before I’d even had a chance to put my bag on the ground in search of a pesky proof of ID, the lesser reasonable of the two had already retrieved his pen from his pocket and began completing the form.

“What’s your address?” he barked, “Just say it slowly.”

I overlooked it, remembering the advice my manager had once given me about picking my battles.

“Yes, I know the postcode. You already told me. What’s the road name?”

I’m 34, I thought to myself. I’m not some fucking child.

I gave him the address and breathed in deeply. Even if I hadn’t intended to, I had broken the rules.

The truth was, I couldn’t really help myself. Being a daring and shameless chap I did try to engage them in conversation, questioning them about the procedure they had to follow. Surely, I thought, if I show I’m a reasonable and intelligent individual they’ll probably be quite relieved. They might possibly engage.

Not a chance. Despite repeated attempts to ask them the simple question, “If you are charging me the single fare for the journey I haven’t paid for and telling me its up to me to appeal so as to avoid the remaining £18.10 penalty, why can’t I just pay £1.90 to the guys in the ticket hall? That way the train company gets the …”

The guy on the left – we’ll call him Dominic because that’s his name – was having none of it and cut in. He did in fact cut in for the third time in as many minutes. I protested about his interruption but he carried on regardless.

“You’re being issued with a penalty fare because you didn’t have a ticket. That’s it.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m not disagreeing or wriggling out of that. I’m just asking, if I can and will pay you the single fare now and I’m not quibbling over paying the single fare, why can’t I just buy the single fare and you not issue a penalty fare? It’s not like I make a habit of this.”

To regail you with the remainder of the conversation would be pointless and boring. Suffice it to say that I finished the day disappointed that contrary to my hopes there are considerably more people who derive immense joy from adopting a smug sense of superiority in their jobs.

Sure, they have to because they have to deal with a lot worse than me, but sometimes I’d hope for a little bit more from other human beings – especially older ones – when they’re faced with someone who quite obviously isn’t a persistent fare dodger. To speak over me when I’m not being aggressive or giving cause for irritation makes those two Rail Enforcement Officers nothing more than failed wannabee policemen.

Thank Christ they didn’t wish me a good night as I trundled off with my penalty fare notice in my pocket. I’d have scratched their eyes out if they had.

Oh .. and in case you’re wondering .. of course I’m going to appeal.

What I do

Me at my desk at work

“What do you do?” is a question I frequently fear being asked. The timing of my response is critical, so too the terminology. If you want to guarantee an impact when you’re meeting new people it’s probably best to avoid these questions at all costs.

It was worse three years ago. Back then I worked in IT support and had done for sever before then. Replying with the stock, simplest phrase “I work in IT” or “I work in IT support,” left me feeling cold. If I was feeling cold then it was a pretty safe bet that whoever was expecting a response was going to be disappointed.

The problems came in how to explain the finer points of my role. My job title back then (Senior Network Analyst) gave no real indication of what it was I worked in. Referring to some generic description of the kind of work I did only led on to the most irritating of questions. “What’s the best laptop to buy in your opinion?” Like I give a fuck what the best laptop is or trying to assist you with a stress-free laptop. I don’t know what the best laptop is to buy. “I usually ask someone in the desktop support team. Do you have someone in your desktop support team you can ask?”

What it reveals is that I am (and I suspect a considerable number of other people) are essentially defined by the jobs I do. If it is that your job doesn’t necessarily reflect your true, core personality then it could well be the case that talking about it is nothing more but an irritation. That’s not an indication of my ability to do the job, I hasten to add.

Three years later things are a little different although, surprisingly the definitions still present some difficulties. If I tell people my job title now I am, rather disappointingly, greeted with guffaws of laughter. “No, a webmaster doesn’t wear a cloak like Harry Potter. No, I don’t wear round John Lennon glasses and no I don’t have a big floppy wizards hat.”

A webmaster, in case you’re not up to speed, is someone who manages either a website or manages the systems which allow others to manage their website. That’s it in a nutshell. To be a webmaster I need to know about websitey-stuff, I need to be able to server-type things from time to time and, from time to time, I have to do pesky admin. Don’t be misled. I’m not complaining. I can feel the grotty world of IT support long behind me. Things are easier on the mind now.

There’s still an etiquette challenge though. And for this you need to know one small fact. As a webmaster, I provide a service which supports the BBC website. The most widely website in the world (which also happens to be part of an insitution I’ve wanted to work for since I was a small boy) is the one, in a sense, I “work” on.

Anyone who works for the BBC-proper will back me up when I say that if you mention you are in any way connected with the BBC the most predictable questions then start flowing?

“Oh .. do you know ‘such and such’? He works on News 24”

“No,” I reply, “the BBC is staffed by 20,000 people and I can’t get into the newsroom.”

OR

“I really hate the fact that the BBC’s Listen Again function keeps failing whenever I’m listening to the Archers.”

“I can’t do anything about that I’m afraid. I don’t work in that department.”

OR

“I really love the BBC website. I use it all the time. I think it’s fantastic. I really love the CBeebies website”

“That’s great. I use it to. It’s terribly good.”

It’s all quite ironic really. For years I’d wanted to work for the BBC and now, for the past couple of years, I’ve been working the closest to the corporation than ever before. Now I find I don’t want to reveal my association with it for fear a string of predictable questions will start flowing. It is, perhaps with justifiable reasons, BBC people tend to keep their cards close to their chest about their employer.

If that wasn’t enough of a problem, the company I work for isn’t part of the BBC. It used to be but now its a separate entity staking its claim in the commercial sector. Explaining who actually pays my salary leaves the listener as cold as when I used to explain I work in IT support. What, exactly, am I to do?

The answer is to be found in the things which many people have said to me over the past few days, completely unprompted I hasten to add. Based on their comments, I offer up the following explanation as to what I do ..

I am a writer who can do techie things with websites and computers. I have an eye for design although I don’t really consider myself a designer. I’m told I’m a good communicator. I’m fiercely loyal, team-driven and yet, ultimately goal-orientated. I’m a creative individual who has a dream and, wherever possible, I try to follow it. I work for a company who provides services to the BBC and am fortunate enough to work at the BBC, in amongst wonderfully creative and supportive individuals across a variety of different departments and disciplines.

You know now. If we ever meet each other at a party please don’t ask me the question, OK?