The Proms are a long running series of summer orchestral concerts mostly held at the Royal Albert Hall and culminating in the last night of the proms. I’ve been tempted to go but when I was living in London in the late 80s, you had to go to at least four other Proms and enter a ticket draw (or pay a very large sum of money for a season ticket).
I have been to one Prom Concert though and was paid for it. That is because it featured an 1812 overture (with mortar and cannon effects, or more accurately, 16 theatrical maroons) and my mate with the special effects business had another booking elsewhere so I was called in as the reserve crew. (I’ve also had the opportunity to do that at Birmingham Symphony Hall and Brighton Dome over the years).
We set up the “bomb tanks” on the gallery level which is beyond the archway to the left of the red Proms sign. The gallery encircles the entire hall, although behind the stage is a former bar area which was used for storage and technical space last time I was there (which is quite a long time ago now). The firing was under control of a rather hubristic percussionist whose sole contribution to the musical proceedings had been to play a triangle in the first half.
During the interval, the Gallery promenaders were extremely unchuffed to find themselves cajoled into the far half of the gallery and crash barriers moved to keep them there- the safety elf had spoken. (Of course, there were people seated within yards of the bomb tanks on the upper circle level, but as they were slightly lower down they were considered safe. (& they had paid more for their tickets, of course).
The explosive score for the 1812 features consists of two distinct sets of bangs- five about three quarters of the way through the piece and eleven more during the grand climactic tubular bell-fest. It typically lasts around 14-15 minutes, although I have seen it played in twelve before at a very furious pace. That night, in the Albrt Hall, I noted that the percussionist’s timing on the five was a bit sloppy and when it came to the eleven, he was all over the place, even firing off an extra one when there shouldn’t have been. Consequently, when he pressed the last button, he had already shot his wad, so to speak. I assured him that there had been sixteen bangs but he wanted to check the debris in the bomb tanks to convince himself he had fired them all.
Tonight, in Morley, we are having our own last night of the Proms, although there doesn’t seem to have been too much publicity for it. I did find a mention on Breeze though:
The Mayor of Morley to hold concert in aid of The Royal Legion
The Mayor of Morley Councillor Terrence Grayshon, will be singing along and waiving his Union Jack at a “Proms” concert to be held on Saturday 25th October in Morley Town Hall.
Sopranos, Lucy Appleyard and Alison Eastwood will join the full orchestra on stage to perform, O Mia Babino Caro (Puccini, Gianni Schichi) and The Flower Duet from Delibes Lakme (as used in the British Airways adverts) amongst others.
The concert, in aid of The Royal British Legion begins at 7.30pm and will see Morley Town Hall turned into the Royal Albert Hall for the evening, as proms favourites, Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No: 4 ring out through the building.
The concert, given by The West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, will see a number of classical and operatic pieces played, together with the ever popular proms night classics.
Unfortunately, the Morley Alexandra Hall does not quite have the impressive scale and grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall, but it will hopefully be a fun evening. In the meantime, here is Jerusalem (minus the Jam) from the 2008 Proms.