Guy Dammann 

Proms 2012: week four in review

Guy Dammann: Musical mash-ups and Nico Muhly taking on his critics – never say the Proms are the boring
  
  

The yoof element was out in force this week at the Albert Hall. We had the "Team GB" National Youth Orchestra as well as the secessionist National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. Then we had the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, the newly formed BBC Proms Youth Choir. And before anyone has the time to cry "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" – Welsh for "Oi! What about us?" – Monday night's performance of Bernstein's madcap masterpiece, Mass, featured the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, the National Choir of Wales, students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and children's chorus drawn from the
pupils of four different Welsh schools.

All of which is good news for Proms tweeters. Certainly the Welsh kids were out in force, sporting appropriately Welsh names like @morgana_grace, @tomosgwyn and @rhysbatt ("amazing experience to perform at the Proms last night"). Responding to the Bernstein's curious mash-up of liturgical choral music and rock opera, @Craiglea spoke for many when he tweeted

@Jules141 was more concise still ("Bernstein's Mass is mental"), while @davidrattigan took a more avuncular attitude, reporting that "Welsh schoolchildren adorable. 'We get to learn Latin & we get to sing in the Royal Albert Hall. It's quite posh, to be honest.'"

Reviewing for the paper, Tim Ashley (@TimAshAsh) was impressed with the performance – "Proms premiere phenomenal, whatever you think of the work" – but more divided about the work itself "Great things … sit alongside curiously unmemorable passages"). @SianFever was, by contrast, in one mind.

Feelings were less mixed for the Proms Youth choir debut with another unique musical mashup, this time of the sacred oratorio with African-American spirituals. Michael Tippett's heartfelt 1941 cry against the indignities suffered by oppressed civilians in times of war, A Child of Our Time, had a less ambivalent effect on @TimAshAsh, who tweeted about being "in bits" afterwards.

If the 300-strong newly formed choir was "staggering," the 550 ranked members of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain made for a particularly striking spectacle when it came to their performance of a new and equally political cantata by Bob Chilcott. "Angry Planet", reported George Hall for the paper, "employed a retro style to explore the lamentable depredations of man upon the." He was more impressed by the shorter opening work, by Ben Parry, called Flame. Someone calling herself "Tom Daley" meanwhile tuned into Twitter to voice her support for Parry.

A fine sentiment, but I must confess the play of identities confused the hell out of me, what with the recent Twitter debacle surrounding our Olympic diver and the fact that the word "flaming" apparently refers to social-media types getting all hot under their virtual collars.

Flaming is a less common phenomenon at the Proms than elsewhere, perhaps because, as the Welsh schoolchildren found, it's so "posh". But it does happen, often in response to new works. Thus while Andrew Clements, reviewing for the paper, found Nico Muhly's new Gait, for the National Youth Orchestra, "deftly scored" if "rather anondyne", @Chrissie_c expressed her response in a more personal fashion.

Muhly, though, is clearly no less tweetwise than he is streetwise, and he didn't rise to the flame-grilled bait other than to flag it for the amused attention of his 12,000 followers, although he did respond to @sjcoltrane's diagnosis of the piece as "John Adams Lite"

If you fancy trying your hand at classical flaming, there are plenty
of opportunities in the coming week, with concerts featuring the inscrutable @FernBri (3pm on Saturday) and the indisputable @NickyBenedetti, both active users of Twitter. It's also a good week if, even after the previous week's excesses, you still like big fat choral works, with Friday Night witnessing a performance of Elgar's rarely heard oratorio The Apostles and Saturday night following it up with Berlioz's great Requiem.

 

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