Monday, 10 September 2007

The Prom in the Park!

After eight weeks of the very best in classical music at both the Royal Albert Hall and Cadogan Hall, it's time for The Last Night of the Proms. For over ten years now, the BBC have opened the festivities out to thousands more people than can fit in the Royal Albert Hall by holding an al fresco party in Hyde Park.

The idea was so successful that it has been emulated across the United Kingdom at venues in all principalities. The Last Night Prom in Hyde Park has become something of an institution in its own right, especially as Terry Wogan is on hand to present the whole affair! The concept is simple: each outdoor venue has one of the BBC orchestras to play the first half of the concert live and then the famous second-half shindig, including all the traditional sing-a-long favourites, is beamed onto a massive screen direct from the Royal Albert Hall.

So many years of watching all the fun on the TV, we decided that this year we wanted to be part of it. So, we bought our tickets in May to make sure of getting them as they are sold out very quickly!!

We left home at around 2pm to meet up with our son and his fiancee in London. Travelling by car to London proved the best option bearing in mind that we had a couple of picnic cool bags with us crammed with food. When we joined up we managed to check out the food and make sure we had plenty of booze as well. More importantly that we had not forgotten anything!

At 4.30 pm the gates opened but we got there around 5ish. We couldn’t rush to find a space. We were carrying far too much in the way of refreshments! On entry to the Park, rubbish bags were handed out, jute tote bags per person. Each with a rainhat, plastic cloak and some paper bionolucars.

We learnt a lot this time and will make things a lot simpler next year. As we thought we would not be allowed any chairs we just brought a large blanket to place on the ground. Plastic plates, cutlery, wine glasses and larger ones to hold the Pimms. Next year, we bring the chairs because it was extremely uncomfortable sitting on the ground for any length of time - must be getting old. However, after a few Pimms and beers the ache seemed to go away :)

To be honest, it didn't really matter to us what musical acts are performing. Just as well as the first few warm up bands were not that brilliant. Most of the fun of the Proms in the Park is the friendly banter, and interaction that goes on with those around you, and of course, the last hour, when we join up via a giant screen to the Albert Hall where the main programme has been played, for the finale that everyone knows and loves.

We began the evening with the Bootleg Beatles, who had everyone rocking in the aisles. That was probably just as well, because it was a tade chilly! We had several orchestral pieces from the BBC Concert Orchestra throughout the night, beautiful singing from Lesley Garrett, the opera singer. She not only sang popular opera songs, but also a selection from the famous London Musicals, like “On My Own” from Les Miserables. She was joined by the equally talented Argentinian opera singer, Jose Curras, who was absolutely brilliant.

This year, the Park was wowed by the Ladysmith Black Mambaza singing group, who made 3 short appearances on the stage at various times during the evening.

The whole evening was held together by Sir Terry Wogan, who does a splendid job every year. An Irish man with a brilliant gift of the gab who is brilliant at this sort of thing.

Of course the highlight of the whole night is always the singing of the patriotic tunes when we join up with the Albert Hall. It is a wonderful sight to see all the flags waving, and people on their feet for “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule Britannia”, as well as “Jerusalem” and “Auld Lang’s Syne”. My voice was very hoarse the next day - so much singing!!!!

At the end, as everyone files out to the various railway and tube stations, the party continues, with the playing of “It’s such a lovely day….I’m glad that I shared it with you”. We also get a wonderful fireworks display, which of course they miss out on at the Albert Hall.

The Last Night of the Proms in the Park is definitely a highlight of the year. I am already looking forward to the next one.

Tickets go on sale in May for the current season’s event. We will book ours as soon as possible and it is best not to leave it too late, as there is a capacity limit of around 40,000, and every year it is a sell out.

This year, we booked our tickets on-line, as you can't buy them at the gate. Obviously there are the various ticket touts but the prices charged did not seem too bad. We paid £23 each which is avery reasonable amount to pay for a brilliant afternoon and evening out.

Of course, the weather plays its part. Luckily, it remained dry if a little chilly but we had all brought fleeces with us and what with the singing and laughing, we managed to keep warm.

One of the great things to do during an evening like this is to 'people watch'. Boy, do you see the sights!!! And I was fascinated to see what people were eating and drinking. We had far too much, quiche,cheese straws, olives, chicken pie, salads, cookies, cake. You name it, we had it!!!!

If, like me, you enjoy community singing, and fancy seeing the Proms in an informal setting, I don’t think you can beat the Proms in the Park. Indeed, I think we get a better variety, and a better atmosphere in the Park, than they do at the Albert Hall.

After all, 40,000 people can’t all be wrong, can they?

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