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Proms in the Park

15 October, 2007
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There are a few poems that I learned during primary and secondary schooling that lodged themselves in my head: poems about the gentle English countryside and rousing patriotic poems about England.

Jerusalem by William Blake, is one of those poems. It’s a very patriotic and religious English poem. Why on earth I love it so, other than the simple emotion in it, I cannot really explain.

It has always been a dream of mine to sing ‘Jerusalem’ in the audience at Last Night of the Proms. I have no idea when or how the idea got planted in my head – but it did, and I grew up with it.

Getting tickets to Last Night of the Proms requires going to five previous Proms concerts, and therefore a lot of money. And I don’t actually like classical music all that much, because I am a philistine. The next best choice, therefore, is Proms in the Park.

England is a very class-oriented society. The upper classes go to Last Night of the Proms, wearing black tie and evening dress. The dregs of society go to Proms in the Park wearing jeans, face paint and silly hats. I know where I’d rather be.

 

Dragon Man

St George’s Dragon finds another victim.

Proms in the Park was heaps of fun – very cheesy. I went with one friend, with the intention of meeting up with other friends, but did not realise quite how many people could be squeezed into Hyde Park. How many? Rather a lot.

We had a little picnic of olives, tomatoes, cheese and bread that we’d picked up earlier in the day from the Borough Farmers’ Markets (fantastic farmers’ and gourmet market, much like the New Farm Farmers’ Markets at the Powerhouse).

To the right of us were a happy and enthusiastic bunch of fellow Proms in the Parks attendees. At one stage, a little bored with the less than brilliant music (mostly bland pop singers and English Idol never-weres (rather than has-beens)), we competed with our neighbours in a cherry- tomatoes- tossing-into- mouth competition. I’ll bet some of the people inside Last Night wished they were with me doing that, rather than being stiflingly silent listening to some prima donna warbling away.

We actually got to listen to a prima donna warbling away too. She had three changes of outfit and the last – and most astounding – was an evening dress made of the Union Jack. We were not required to be quiet however, so we joined in if we knew the words, or heckled if we didn’t.

We also pantomined stories for the operatic numbers which were not in English. My favourite was the song in which our prima donna had to finish doing the dishes before her husband and lord arrived home on horseback. The dramatic tension was introduced by a mosquito buzzing around her head and as she tries to swat it away, she splashes dishwashing detergent everywhere and almost – but thankfully does not – break any of the crystal glasses. Just in time, she finishes the dishes in a high-pitched crescendo, with the clippity clopping of the horse pulling into the driveway. High drama and high emotion. That’d be the kind of opera I would write.

The really disturbing bit, however, was when everyone sang Rule Brittania. I found singing Rule Brittania a little difficult – some of the words choked in my throat. So I took photographs of the insanely frenetic flag waving instead.

 

Patriotism

Rule Britannia.

 

The evening was a great success: I sung Jerusalem with much gusto.  Don’t know that I’ll go again, though …

***

And on an entirely different note, I finally visited the Tate Modern. Here is some installation art in the Turbine Room:-

 

Installation Art

Still being installed.

Don’t worry – I have grand plans of visiting the Tate Modern more often, and hopefully when there actually is something installed in the Turbine Room.

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