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The auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall struck me as feeling compact.  The musicians seemed strangely near.

I was sitting in a second tier box and the BBC Philharmonic orchestra was in full flow.

Then, up in the Gallery, just under the dome which rises to over 40 metres high, I had a further sample of what some of the potential 500 standing ticket holders would hear later in the evening.

The performance was actually a rehearsal of Prom 10 – violinist Tasmin Little and the BBC Philharmonic, under the baton of Chief Conductor Juanjo Mena.

My one hour trip to the Royal Albert Hall was on this occasion not for a Prom concert but to join a whistle stop tour of the History of the Proms.

The Tour started at the beginning of the Proms story, which was 1895.  That’s when the concerts were held at the Queen’s Hall, at Langham Place in London.  It took in the financial uncertainty of the 1920s and the arrival of the BBC, followed by the move to the Royal Albert Hall in the 1940s, the growing and diverse concert programmes through the 1970s, and more world music and TV tie-ins from the 1980s onwards.

One of the numerous quirky stories told en route was about a 1974 performance of Carmina Burana. It was said an understudy was unable to step into the breach for a vocal soloist because he was too busy reviving him from the heat.  A capable audience member grasped the initiative and took over instead, so it went.

Those of us on the History of the Proms Tour were led at a reasonably swift pace up and down grand staircases and less grand ones, past royal portraits and a brief pause to ponder historical concert programmes and pictures of renowned performers.

It was really enjoyable as a first taste of the Proms’ history or perhaps to savour a few more musical tales and curiosities for the already acquainted Prommer. Sadly, it was all over before the stories of barefooted stewards really got going.

© Laura Claire H 2014

 

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