To paraphrase a pentameter from Poe: "the Proms, the Proms, the Proms, the Proms, the Proms!" They are upon us! It is the greatest classical music festival... in the wo-o-o-orld! It has to be true, because we read it on the side of a bus!
Seriously, though, the Proms really are amazing. It is, in fact, too big to write a preview of. Just so we're clear: there are seventy-four regular Proms concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, plus eight chamber music events in Cadogan Hall, two concerts in Hyde Park, one in Ally Pally (last month), four film screenings, and at least twenty-nine lectures and other special events. That is, dear Londonist reader, a butt-load of music. And all of it is broadcast on Radio 3, and online, and some of it is on TV. But why would you listen to it on the radio, with day tickets starting at £4? All you have to do is show up a few hours early. Unless you're, like, arthritic or something. In which case maybe you can bring one of those stick-seat thingies? You know the ones...
Anyway, everything got officially underway last Friday, although we weren't there, since we were singing along with the transgendered at the Club Wotever one-off at the Hackney Empire (which deserved a post of its own, but can we just say: damn, that was some fine transgendered entertainment! And also Thalidomide humour!).
After the jump: did we mention that it's the Greatest Classical Music Festival IN THE WORLD?
We have been agonising about what to tell you about the Proms, exactly. There are plenty of other sources to tell you what the highlights will be: the utterly indispensable (yet occasionally dismayingly humorless) Monsieur Pliable has been giving us his picks on a regular basis (here, here, here, and... stay tuned!). The usually reliable Anthony Holdon of the Guardian gives us his top-ten picks here (although we must point out: Korngold, whatever his aesthetic failings, did not write "twiddle," even in Hollywood). You can fork over £4.10 for the most recent BBC Music Magazine to see which ones they pick. And of course you can get a précis of all the events at the Proms website, which will save you the five quid it costs to buy a program. (Five quid is, mind you, one quid more than it costs to actually see a concert from the gallery.)
Did you notice, though, what all these sources have in common? The previews are all miserably brief. Since there are so many concerts, it feels downright odd to spend more than a sentence or two on any one. Even the official program book gives detailed information about only about half of the concerts. And, all bus-ad hype aside, the quality of the concerts truly is amazingly high, and consistent.
So what can Londonist provide you? Well, we considered writing detailed summaries of Proms concerts chosen at random, but that seemed like tempting fate, and we didn't want to be forced into giving you a full length preview of The Dream of Gerontius or something. (Not that we don't like Gerontius, mind you. It's just hard to come up with something witty to say about it. It's... Cathli-riffic!).
We then considered sticking with the formula we in the Classical Music Division of the Londonist offices have been tentatively building up — that is, writing posts only about which concerts feature performers that will haunt our masturbation fantasies (cough Bo Skovus cough), which performers will probably be wearing fabulous and/or outrageous frocks (cough cough Leila Josefowicz cough), and which concerts will probably be atrociously horrible (cough cough cough Andrea Bocelli cough cough). But we don't want to be accused of falling into a rut. (In the case of Skovus, or also Joshua Bell, that would be a rutty rut, we suppose.) (Sorry.)
Then we considered just writing about the Proms we ourselves were committed to attending. This is a blog after all, you should all be thankful you're not reading about how many dogs we saw on the Tube this morning right now. While have little or no compunction about foisting our admittedly peculiar tastes on you, gentle reader, we are stuck with the fact that we're not very good about planning to go to concerts too far in advance in the best of times, and the cool thing about the Proms lies precisely in the fact that, if you show up and queue a few hours in advance, you can get into basically anything. So it feels somehow dishonest to commit ourselves to attending things which we may or may not feeling like queuing for when the day arrives.
So, you don't a big Proms preview. Sorry. You will get a bunch of Proms reviews — rest assured that you will be the first to know exactly what Josefowicz was wearing after her recital this coming Monday, and how much of her decolleté was on display.
For now, go out an buy your own damn five-quid program! Pick a concert at random. Queue up (there's a convenient map in the back of the program explaining where the various queues form). It's actually really hard to go wrong. (Unless, that is, you see the words "Andrea Bocelli." "Andrea Bocelli" is Italian for "no good music here.")