Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Prom -- Or Not to Prom

Me and my dearly departing Canadian friend at the opening night of the Proms last night.

It's my favourite time of year: Prom time!

No, it’s not a graduation dance for freedom-drunk teens – it’s one of the biggest classical music events of the year. Started in 1895 with the goal of bringing classical music to the masses, the BBC Proms is an annual eight-week series of concerts by symphonies and orchestras from around the world.

Short for Promenade Concerts, Proms refers to the walking or strolling some audience members used to do inside the hall. Now, it refers to the standing areas in the hall, where you can buy a ticket on the day for only £5. Queue up for access to the Gallery – where you can lounge on the cement floor high above the Royal Albert Hall. Or, you can stay standing at ground level in the Arena. Either way, you can’t get better music at a better price. (Extract from 24 Hours London)

With yet another expat friend heading back to Canada after a three-year stint in London, we decided to mark her departure with a final dose of British culture at the Proms. I've been to loads of Proms -- and the final night at Hyde Park, which has an atmosphere all its own -- but I've never been to the opening night. Due to broken trains, though, we didn't join the queue until around 6:45 pm, by which time it stretched outside the Royal Albert Hall, down a small side street, and back again.

The queue outside the Royal Albert Hall.

Sadly, we didn't get in -- we weren't even close! Still, we managed to drown our sorrows with a final pit-stop in Soho, so all wasn't lost.

The ornate facade of the Royal College of Organists.

The side of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Albert Memorial and the top of the Royal Albert Hall.


KarenG said...

So cool! What an incredible event! Sounds like an amazing setting for a novel too. I hope you were taking notes.

Al said...

I've never been in London Long enough to catch the proms.
Down here in Oz the ABC (little sister of the BBC) runs (once a year)a program called "A Night at the Proms" which allegedly shows the Prom highlights. That is as close to the Proms as I have been.

heatherfeather said...

Just started reading your blog (link from HailBritannia) and decided to join in! When I was in London two years ago I tried to get in but like you was turned away..

I believe some public radio stations here in the US broadcast the Last Night of the Proms. As a Doctor Who fan, I'm excited that the show will be featured in two Proms. The first one was quite good and was a good Proms intro for children IMHO.

Really like your site.

Anonymous said...

This is the third year I've been in town when the Proms are on, and this year I'm finally going! I've managed to get pre-sale tickets to only one of the proms I want to attend and am thinking of doing the standing room thing. But it seems to me like it would be really uncomfortable to stand around, eye-level with the stage, for an hour and a half (after standing in line for an hour for the tickets themselves). Thoughts? It sounds like you've done it before and were willing to do it again?

Marsha Moore said...

Hi Heather! Thanks for dropping by my blog!

KarenG - it is an amazing event. I always take mental photos.

Karen - you can go to two places: the Gallery or the Arena. You do have to stand in the Arena, but not the Gallery. We always take our picnic blanket and spread it out, then lie down and let the music wash over us... the acoustics from way up there are amazing. I would definitely recommend the Gallery!

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