The Night It All Went A Bit Right



The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall has always been dominated by popular classical music, with intriguing sidebars of esoteric and eclectic pieces. Barring the ghastly flag-waving farrago of the Last Night, the selection is broadly sedate, pleasurable and not unlike listening to those albums of ‘British Light Classical’. This year was no different to previous ones; the usual selection of favourites and lesser-known works – until one evening was devoted to something a little different.

Deciding to update the notion of ‘promenade’ music, Pete Tong, one of the few DJs honoured with his own piece of rhyming slang, was invited to appear with the Heritage Orchestra and guests Ella Eyre and John Newman, presenting 20 years of Ibiza sounds in a programme dedicated to the White Island.

The result was jolly good fun, filled with songs that for many of us have formed part of the soundtrack of our lives. But from the outrage expressed in some quarters you’d have thought that the Albert Hall had announced they were turning the venue into a lapdancing club. The press talked about the ‘Saga Generation’ being replaced with ‘young revellers’ but Jeez, these were not new beats – they were two decades of nostalgia!

The effect of hearing Moby, Groove Armada et al played by a 60-piece orchestra was a bit like listening to one of those ‘Hooked On Classics’ albums and didn’t always work – all those poor violinists hammering away beneath flashing lights looked like cruelty in the workplace, but it was an enjoyable programme and absolutely fitted the remit of ‘popular promenade music’, particularly when you bear in mind how many instrumental semi-classical riffs make up the bedrock of Ibiza chillout music.

If the idea of the Proms is to encourage listeners to hear music they’d not previously discovered, how many classical diehards realised that they actually liked Fatboy Slim and Daft Punk? And as much as I love Mozart’s Horn Concertos, how many times can I hear them played in public?

The amazing question is – why did it take so long to get around to doing this? There’s no earthly reason why, say, the film scorings of John Barry, Malcolm Arnold, Michael Nyman or Craig Armstrong shouldn’t be regarded as classical. Shostakovich and Walton wrote film scores, after all.

There’s something wrong-end-of-the-telescope-ish about hearing familiar music rescored to a full orchestra. Music composed for videogames often has a wild grandeur about it – indeed, minimalist Nyman composed one himself called ‘Enemy Zero’. Perhaps the barrier between ‘promenade’ and ‘classical’ needs breaking down still further.

6 comments on “The Night It All Went A Bit Right”

  1. Xas says:

    I’ve never been a club-y person, but I’d be a starter for that Ibiza gig, if for no other reason than I love John Newman to bits.

  2. Bradstreet says:

    The Proms have been doing film music since at least 2007, and back in 2013 they included THE STRANGLERS as well as rappers like Fazer appearing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There was a lot of newspaper coverage at the time, and I’m a little bit surprised that you weren’t aware of it. 2015 wasn’t the first time that they did this.

  3. admin says:

    I don’t usually check out the Proms because I don’t much like the Albert Hall as a venue – although I did enjoy seeing Ennio Morricone there.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    The odd bits of the Proms are an annual thing for newspapers & critics to get pompous about and shout what is the world coming too? Just like the Turner prize really. At least they can still generate media hype by doing what they do, as opposed to the Booker that has to generate it’s own hype based on how the awards are run as opposed to what the books are about.


  5. Richard B says:

    I seem to remember watching a BBC broadcast of Soft Machine doing the Proms. back in the late 60s. Pretty far out for the Beeb even then!

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