Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bring back gregarious chant to BBC Proms


Back in the days when I lived in London and went to the BBC Proms regularly the promenaders used to perform chants in between works. They were rather silly but harmless and didn't get in the way of the music. These days the chants have disappeared and instead we have silly applause between movements which does get in the way of the music. Could the BBC please do a deal with the promenaders and trade the applause for the chants?

Last night's Prom showed just how stupid the habit of applauding between movements at the Proms has become. A burst of applause after a particularly fine interpretation of a symphony movement is understandable. But the performance of Dvorak 6 by the Netherlands Philharmonic and Yakov Kreizberg , which was flogging the inevitable new CD release, was decidedly pedestrian. Yet still the prommers kept applauding between the movements.

Hello Mum, I'm at the Proms and that's me clapping ...

Header photo was taken by me at the last BBC Prom I attended.
Header image is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

3 comments:

Pliable said...

Tonight's Prom showed just how stupid the habit of applauding between movements at the Proms has become.

A burst of applause after a particularly fine performance of a symphonic movement is understandable.

But tonight's Dvorak 6 by the Netherlands Philharmonic was pedestrian to say the least. But still the prommers kept applauding.

Hello Mum, I'm at the Proms and that's me clapping ...

Sweet Camden Lass said...

What shall I chant then?

Horkesman said...

In my Promming 20s I was guilty of more than my fair share of chant-organising. Yes, the in-jokes were meaningless to the majority but usually not to the conductors and players at whom they were often directed. (Andrew Davies, once known to us as Goldilocks, clearly appreciated being asked "Who's a Golden Oldie now, then?" on his return to the podium sporting a beard grown whilst away conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.) And during Robert Ponsonby's reign as BBC Controller of Music there were so many pretentious programme notes at which to take pot shots....

However, our derision of those who applauded in the wrong place was fiercer even than yours, Pliable, and we denigrated them as tourists. From my vantage point in the Balcony last week it was obvious that the offending interruptions still come predominantly from those seated rather than the Prommers. Given that the mediocre performance (Richard Morrison says it all here: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/proms/article4752620.ece) contained little to stimulate such spontaneous appreciation, the supposition that those who break spells by clapping between movements are only occasional visitors to the concert hall appears as valid today as it was in the 1970s.

I'd love to be proved wrong but I doubt that the chanting will return: it was born of the camaraderie between vocal twenty-somethings and teenagers who now seem chronically under-represented in the Arena. Perhaps this is because students can no longer afford the luxury of summer afternoons spent queueing outside the Hall?