20 July 2006


I am a Proms convert - I'd never been but always liked the idea of them. A summer-long music festival - what's not to like? Something to admire from afar. So I was chuffed to go last night, to stop paying lip service to it and actually see what it was like. The tickets we got were only a tenner, and some are only a fiver. That's the best deal in the world. Most cocktails cost more.

It was hot. But even in the stifling heat - so hot there was a mist in the rafters of the Royal Albert Hall - it was brilliant. More pervasive than the heat was the enthusiasm, both from the audience and the stage. Not just for the music but for the ceremony, the event, everything, like the orchestra is greater than the sum of its parts, so too is the Proms, the crowd, the Hall, the musicians and even Mozart and Dvorák, long past but still present. Our seats were way up, just below the arches. It wasn't the best view, but we could hear and feel the music and the sense of scale was incredible.

And the Queen was there. Bit of a surprise, that. She gave someone a prize. Then, unprompted, the audience, including me, sang 'Happy Birthday' and gave her three cheers. I sang 'Happy Birthday' to the Queen. I'm such a dork.

When I got home the BBC coverage was on - hi res and impressive, but slightly clinical. It didn't seem to be the same event. The energy, the heat, the thrill of feeling the strings as though they were your own sinews, the rumble of the percussion and haunting horns replaced with clean editing and digitally filtered sound. They didn't even show us singing 'Happy Birthday'.

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