The Last Night of the stripped down Proms
I watched the Last Night of the Proms at the weekend and wondered at the imagination and inventiveness that had gone into producing this stripped back but impeccably planned affair.
It offered some great moments and the pared down and socially distanced BBC Symphony Orchestra - cut to almost a fifth of its usual size - led by the Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska did a sterling job in the strangely empty Royal Albert Hall.
Presenter, sometime Clive Conway Production’s speaker Katie Derham did a fine job engaging with a handful of celebrity guests via Zoom style monitors.It was good to see another of our stalwarts - ever ebullient opera singer Lesley Garrett among their number. Lesley of course has a raft of shows with CCP booked for next year. Check the What’s On section of this website for further details.
High points of the Last Night included violin soloist Nicola Benedetti played Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending and an exciting and radical re-working, complete with blues references, by composer Errollyn Wallen, of Hubert Parry's Jerusalem.
It was brilliantly sung by the South African soprano Golda Schultz, giving the kind of performance that thrills and inspires yet tends to alarm some of the more inflexible purists out there. Inevitably the backlash came with one critic later describing the arrangement as "a mangled abomination." No doubt awaiting such reactions the BBC had decided to make sure that the traditional rendition of the Parry/Blake classic was firmly in place for the evening’s final singalong section.
Which brings me to my one major criticism which is that the whole event was marred, for me anyway, by the embarrassment, of the decision to go ahead, after some hesitation, with the traditional singing of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Brittania.
These works are lyrically far too nationalistic, imperialistic even to be appropriate in these sensitive and hopefully more enlightened times. They are meant to be rousing and empowering but all too easily come over as outdated and divisive.