There was a distinct Doctor Who feel to this Ten Pieces Prom. A time traveller was summoned to the Royal Albert Hall pursued by a malevolent cosmic leader in female clothing. There were two young assistants, played by Ellis George and Louis Walwyn, both with notable television credentials, but the force that drew them together was music and the inspiration that forms it.
The Time Traveller was Sir Henry Wood, co-instigator of the Proms in 1895, his appearance instigated by the sounds of a Magic Flute, so we heard the Mozart’s Overture to it and, later, an aria from the Queen of the Night: Kathryn Lewek’s presence as the Pantomime was heavily trailed in over-stage projections before she appeared in person.
The concert opened with a bang: Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. The brass and percussion of the Royal Philharmonic captured the attention of young and old, and was followed by the title-chorus from Elgar’s The Music Makers, sung by the Ten Pieces Choir made up of youngsters from all over the UK aged seven upwards. It was a moving moment to hear the children affirm the centrality of music in their lives, “We are the Music Makers … the dreamer of dreams.”
A varied and fast-moving programme included drama and wistfulness. Lili Boulanger’s Debussy-like D’un matin de printemps underscored the inclusion of female composers, reiterated by a fabulous choral cityscape created for the children by Kerry Andrew, No Place Like, conducted by Grace Rossiter. Music from William Walton’s Henry V score (for Olivier’s film) and the opening of Vivaldi’s Gloria kept the mood upbeat, while some of the Finale from Ravi Shankar’s Symphony (with sitar) and the first of Peter Sculthorpe’s Island Songs (featuring Jess Gillam) provided a lovely contrast in cultural diversity.
Henry Wood’s ‘Jack’s the Lad Hornpipe’ (part of his Fantasia on Sea Songs) involved us all, led with gusto by Rory Kinnear as the Grand Old Man, and Respighi’s ‘Pines of the Appian Way’ (from Pines of Rome) closed the concert, Jessica Cottis drawing electric performances, as throughout, from the RPO.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms