Category Archives: Concerts

2013 Last Night of the Proms

There was more than one lark. And what is the world coming to when you just have to mention that we had to wait until 2013 for the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms? Last night’s Last Night made too much of Marin Alsop’s uniqueness. Katie Derham who presented – very nicely – for the BBC, while wrinkling her brow in a manner that will lead to wrinkles later, had to mention it all the time.

And here I am, doing the same. Oops. I found out yesterday was the Last Night and who was conducting, purely by reading the interview with the First Female in my morning paper. Had it been Karajan there would have been less fuss. Actually, maybe not. Dead conductors probably merit media fuss as well. (Which brings me to the brief excitement the Resident IT Consultant and I experienced when Katie announced that Vaughan Williams was entering the stage.)

Proms 2013

You know me. I’m no good with classical music knowledge. So I don’t really know why a counter tenor like Iestyn Davies has to sound like a woman (nor why there was virtually no mention of him in the programme). The Chichester Psalms were nice enough, although not very Leonard Bernstein-y.

They had a headless tuba player, as far as I could see. And even before they showed us what the orchestra and chorus (BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus) looked like when not wearing their fine clothes (relax, I don’t mean in the nude), I had wondered what they look like out of them. Perfectly normal, is the answer. Loved the Union Jack turban as worn by one member of the chorus.

Nigel ‘No-Adjective’ Kennedy even dressed down in the second half, wearing something footballish (?), while still sporting his sticky-uppy hair. Although, I’m not sure what to call the glorified, torn binbag he wore in the first act, either. Different. That’s what it was. Refreshingly so. As was the tea he brought on stage.

Not sure what Marin Alsop thought as she seemed to be conducting a different piece of music to what Nigel was playing. I kept hoping he’d get on with the Czardas, while Marin probably wondered when – and whether – he’d rejoin her and the orchestra. Caterwauling is what it sonded like. And he stabbed a balloon.

The hit of the evening was surely mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato who seemed to be coming and going all night. Loved the blood red dress in the first half (but the ‘draped flag’ for Rule Britannia was a bit meh) and would like to know how it stayed up. She knew how to play the audience. Flirt a bit. Wiggle your hips. Throw roses. Sing beautifully.

Marin Alsop’s speech was too long and too much about herself. Too serious. (Quite American, that.) But at least we’ve got this First Female business out of the way.

What do they do in Glasgow and Caerphilly when Land of Hope and Glory is on? I understand there are sensibilities to consider, but am curious.

It took a while, but we finally got to Auld Lang Syne. I think I especially enjoy it because it shows how well an audience can sing when there is neither orchestra nor choir helping out. And no rehearsing beforehand.

(For anyone who doesn’t feel there’s enough Last Night of the Proms here, this weblink should provide what you need.)

Sommartider

When Daughter got off the train in Halmstad on Friday night, half the town (a mere 20,000 to be truthful) was there to meet her. There were fireworks. The police were out, directing traffic and closing off lanes. People were happy, and wandering all over the place. Even the weather was nice, and warm, considering it was 11pm. Still almost light, too.

She’d been travelling for eleven hours by then, and was more than pleased to be getting off the train, seeing as half of half the town seemed to be wanting to get on. I expect it got crowded for a while there. We eventually managed to squeeze our borrowed Saab out of the parking slot we had miraculously found right outside the station (only possible because the big American classic car took up so much space that no one else had attempted the squeeze. The Resident IT Consultant had to breathe in to get out), and it only took half an hour to leave town, as opposed to the normal five minutes.

Gyllene Tider, Halmstad

It wasn’t only Daughter’s arrival that caused the mayhem. The primary reason for the other 19,998 people was the Gyllene Tider concert, a stone’s throw away from the station. Personally I’d been hoping for more concert to be left when we arrived, as it would have meant not only quieter streets, but I could have listened in for free while waiting. But we met the Hot Dog Man as we approached, so worked out it was all over now.

There was piped Gyllene Tider music on offer, however, and the fireworks display was pretty good. The station was long closed, but its café was open, as was the Seamen’s Church along the road. It was not our normal Halmstad at all. I doubt I’ll see the like of it again. (Although, the next concert is on the 7th of August.)

Gyllene Tider, Halmstad

Not sure if the concert dates were known (to me) when Daughter booked her travel tickets. No matter; we couldn’t/wouldn’t have attempted the concert anyway. I feel sad to have missed it, but standing up for several hours with 20,000 happy fans is not my idea of comfort.

Sommartider hej hej, sommartider, hej…

Adele

I despise people who blog on subjects they know nothing about. But here I am, all ready to blog about Adele. Mercifully – for you – it won’t be long. I’d been wondering about Adele for a bit, having worked out she might actually be someone I could like, while also being someone I knew next to nothing about. So the fact that Swedish television seems capable of showing programmes other than stupid reality competitions on a Saturday night, meant I had an hour of Adele, Live at the Royal Albert Hall I could watch.

To put it briefly; I liked it. Her. I often don’t like music when I hear it for the first time, so I’m glad it wasn’t like that. I liked it immediately. And my relief to find that a woman is able to sing, and to do it well, while also being fully clothed, is considerable. I mean, who’d have thought? Adele even looks like she’s eaten food recently. And still she can sing!

It’s been a while since I was at the Albert Hall, and let me tell you, back in those days it would have been impossible to have everyone there waving telephones around. But it was most effective, with those lights shining like stars, and all for Amy Winehouse (who I also know nothing about).

Adele at the Royal Albert Hall

You can’t blame Adele for needing to wipe her eyes, and it must be so fantastic getting the audience to sing, word perfect and in tune, almost as if they had rehearsed it. With television cameras in the Hall, you could see that Adele’s fans sang along to all the songs.

I suppose I feel a bit left out, as I couldn’t sing with them. But maybe my time will come.

Trying to Skype it

If the Stones can play Glastonbury, then Gyllene Tider can play Allsång på Skansen.

I put the laptop in front of the television, so it too could watch Allsång. (Actually, it was a feeble attempt to make it possible for Daughter to watch from afar. Via Skype. But it didn’t work.) I had to enjoy Måns Zelmerlöw all by myself, and couldn’t help wondering if his prattish fall off the stage was a re-enactment of an earlier, genuine fall. He didn’t seem to enjoy it.

Allsång på Skansen, Gyllene Tider

His childhood stars, the old men of Gyllene Tider were there. As I said. They are all a few years younger than me. Micke Syd now looks like his Dad. (That’s not a bad thing. Just a reflection on how life goes on.) Anders no longer has to sleep with Per when they go on tour. And Per thinks composing songs is a doddle, ‘it usually goes quite well.’

We had a choir, and we had a brand new 15-year-old, Zara Larsson. She looked so nice that I sincerely hope she won’t be as successful as Carola who came after her, wearing a dress worthy of some US television star. She has been around for so long – 30 years – that her old hits are now Allsång songs.

I kept staring at the people in the audience, who from what one hears will have been there since early morning. Do I know them? Are they famous? Or do they simply look like typical Swedes in some way? Speaking of which, I am not xenophobic, but do feel this programme is best suited to have Swedes performing. Passenger was their first foreign guest, and I’d never heard of him. His song was all right, even if his voice was a bit odd, but I’d rather he’d not been there…

GT returned with a medley, which was a little Flickorna på TV2, some more Juni, juli, augusti, and all of Sommartider. And the weather was sunny, and all was perfect. I even switched to the online second half, so heard a bit more GT. (They’re playing locally next week, but with no ticket I’m unlikely to hear them.)

Måns Zelmerlöw, Allsång på Skansen

I’m always struck by how everyone sings at Skansen, and how they seem to enjoy themselves. No one is too cool. By getting up at the crack of dawn, you too could sing live – and out of tune – on Swedish television.

And one of these days I will not find the word ‘husband’ strange when I see it rolling in the credits. It means ‘house band’ so means backing musicians. But I suppose a husband comes in handy for all sorts of things.

Gilbert and Sullivan?

On Friday night Daughter called and asked if I’d heard of Gilbert and Sullivan

I had.

She said she might go to a concert the next evening, as one of her friends at uni plays for the G and S society there. I said that sounded like fun, and directed her to YouTube for some musical samples. When she found they were ‘responsible for’ The Elements Song, she decided it might be all right.

Then when the Resident IT Consultant and I were doing the wine and water thing at the Bridgewater Hall on Saturday afternoon, we looked at our programme and I remarked that some G and S would have fitted in nicely. The Resident IT Consultant (who consults facebook for everything) said that the concert Daughter had mentioned was to fund a trip to Buxton, which for us felt strangely close to home.

That’s when the lady across the table from us said she could tell us the date. Which was strange. We thought she might be from Buxton. But no, she was just the most ardent G and S fan, and she knew whoever was running the concert Daughter was going to.

After our concert and before hers, Daughter phoned to say her friend was ill and she no longer felt like going. I said we’d just spoken to some G and S fans and she simply had to go. (I mean, that’s clearly a good reason.)

She went. I received a text to say she was the youngest in the room, and that it was ‘the church hall lunch’ all over again. But I couldn’t help noticing on facebook that she was enjoying the concert. Perhaps old people aren’t totally hopeless after all?

Played by ‘real people on real instruments’

There we were, the Hallé’s Andy Ryans and his ‘cost-savers’ who stuff the envelopes. As Andy said, it was his usual speech, but none the worse for that. Most people feel good about being praised, and I’m sure the collected stuffers were happy to be thanked, again, with a concert and some wine and water. You can do worse than to have someone be ‘eternally grateful.’

The Countess of Wessex wasn’t with us. She came a couple of days ago to listen in on the rehearsal. The Hallé now have their brand new rehearsal venue all ready to use.

We, the cost-savers, had come for Saturday afternoon’s Promenade concert Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea! conducted by Stephen Bell and presented by Alasdair Malloy, with angelic singing by the Hallé Children’s Choir.

The audience was an unusually young one, so coughs were not as ‘stifled’ as the programme requested, but who cares? They are the future of the Hallé. We were treated to a selection of watery pieces of music, starting with Portsmouth Point by Sir William Walton, and then Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus. He was so wrong, that Khachaturian. The piece simply oozes water. The Onedin Line people knew what they were doing when they chose it.

Then the choir sang about a trip to Blackpule (Blackpool, by Chris Hazell) and did a fantastic job of waving and being sick (pretend only). Debussy and Britten followed, before a selection of postcards from the wind and percussion sections. It is so nice to see more of the individual orchestra members! My Bolero hero (hey, that rhymed!) played An der Schönen Blauen Donau on glockenspiel.

The tuba player played from Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, although he didn’t actually dance while doing it. (I only mention this because I have seen it done. And I like it.) One of these days I’ll get my tubas sorted from my trombones, too. New York, New York had most of us clicking our fingers. The choir clicked especially well.

Elgar’s Enigma Variations brought the first part to an end, allowing the musicians to ‘come out and play’ with their children. It was a sort of family afternoon. Luckily baby Carrillo-Garcia didn’t regurgitate (sponsors) Vimto over daddy’s white jacket.

Double bass

Titanic (by James Horner) opened the second half, and then there were more postcards, with Jonathan Dove’s musical postcards where the choir sang traditional songs, weaving singing and music together. Not sure what happened to the drunken sailors. I missed them. (I don’t think I fell asleep.)

George Fenton’s music for The Blue Planet on television featured a great big whale, and you could literally ‘see’ the whale in the music. Just as the little plasticine men from The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! were quite visible, if you listened carefully to Theodore Shapiro’s piece from the film.

We clapped so well after all this that we got an extra, with much cheerful booming from the horns. Audience, and choir, participation required lots of arm waving. It doesn’t matter if babies cry. I think we all enjoyed ourselves, and I imagine that quite a few children will want to return.

It was good. And afternoon concerts mean you’re not too tired afterwards. Even with audience participation.

Roger Whittaker – possibly The Last Farewell

It feels so final. I don’t want this to have been the last Roger Whittaker tour, or the last concert, but if it was, then we’ve had a good many years, tours, concerts, not to mention songs. People think it’s perfectly normal for a 77-year-old to retire (to already be retired) so it goes without saying that one day Roger will retire too. For real.

But maybe he will start to itch one day, when the resting gets too much. I favour individual concerts, somewhere easy to get to for a lot of us.

Not having been able to travel to Germany this time, I am hoping my fellow fans had a great time. I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing this photo of Roger and his drum from Rocco Meier who went to the last concert in Vienna.

Roger Whittaker, Wien 10th May 2013, photo by Rocco Meier