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.