On Monday night we went to the Royal Albert Hall for Prom 39. Now in its 119th year, the BBC Proms are the worlds largest classical musical festival.
The concerts started in 1895 after Robert Newman, manager of the new Queen’s Hall in London, decided that he wanted to reach a wider audience by ‘offering more popular programmes, adopting a less formal promenade arrangement, and keeping ticket prices low’.
In a world where classical music is still perceived by many as elitist and out of reach, it’s reassuring to discover that tickets to the Proms can cost as little as a fiver. Compare that to the cost of a ticket to see Beyonce and you soon see that the Proms offer excellent value for money.
I was really excited to hear Nishat Khan play on Monday night. He plays the Sitar, an instrument made famous by Norah Jones’ father Ravi Shankar, and Monday night was the premiere of his Sitar Concerto No. 1. He was accompanied by the National Orchestra of Wales; it was beautiful to hear his vision of India supported by the very traditional sound that I associate with an orchestra. (Prior to Khan we heard another vision of India, Gustav Holst’s Indra).
Although I loved the Sitar I equally enjoyed Vaughan William’s portrait of London, A London Symphony. It ‘evokes the chimes of Westminster, a chill November in Bloomsbury and the bright lights of the Strand’ – a fitting description that you can still recognise from life in London today. It was just a shame that two mobile phones went off during Big Ben’s chimes!
If you get an opportunity to go to the Proms this year please do – you will be in for a treat. Even if you’re not keen on classical music give it a try; it is a cheap night out and we all need to try something new from time to time.