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Classical Notes

BBC Proms in London

Posted at 2:42 PM on September 8, 2005 by Brian Newhouse

I am in London preparing for the live Last Night of the Proms broadcast on Saturday, September 10. Don Lee, my producer, writes the first post from this side of the Atlantic:

This is my fourth year producing the U.S. broadcast of the Last Night of the Proms. I arrived in London yesterday to begin preparations on location. With the exception of less-than-optimal internet connections in the hotel, everything is proceeding routinely so far. The rest of the crew—host Brian Newhouse and fellow producer Lauren Rico—got in this morning, weary but ready to go to work. This is their first Proms experience and I realized today how much I'd been looking forward to sharing it with them.

As we walked together through Kensington toward the Royal Albert Hall on this warm September evening, I also realized that I was most eager to see how they reacted to the actual concertgoing experience at the Proms. It's unlike any other I've experienced. The quality of communication at Proms concerts is extraordinary. A lot of that has to do with the Proms audience. They want to be there and nowhere else. They hang on every note. The focus in the hall can be intense. The Prommers' rapt attention seems to inspire the best in the orchestras that play at the Proms. I've observed that in my few visits and veteran Prom-goers corroborate the impression.

Tonight we heard Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic perform Haydn, Berg and Stravinsky and, frankly, I was a little let down. By the audience. Tonight, the Prommers were out of sync with the performers. They carried on with coughing beyond the end of movement breaks. They applauded a moment too soon at the conclusion of the Berg—causing Mehta to drop his extended arms in a shrug. These were the tangible signs, insignificant on their own, but I think they pointed to something bigger. Some of the focus seemed to return with The Rite of Spring, but for Brian and Lauren's first Proms, I'd hoped for more: an experience that would rocket them out of their jet lag.

That's my review of the Proms audience, one side of the equation. I'll leave it to Brian, the man with the ears, to talk about the performers.
—Don Lee