Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

Late Night Prom looks outside the ‘closed classical box’ August 27, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 10:03 am
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Last night I went to the coolest Prom yet! Jamie Cullum with his four piece band joined the Heritage orchestra for what turned out to be cross between a civilised concert and hot and steamy jig.  

The audience was predominantly composed of 20-35 somethings (especially in the packed promming arena) but I was impressed by the number of ‘oldies’ who braved the concert. While the Proms aims to introduce newcomers to classical music, last night I think it actually introduced many to jazz. Due to my sheltered ways, I’ve certainly never been to anything like this and it was eye opening to see of the mixing board on stage and the staged drama, which included two fishermen at the start of the set. Not only did Jamie draw in a predominantly younger audience, but he pulled in a packed auditorium (which can’t be said for all the late night proms).

However, the audience’s classical background was evident in the polite twitters in response to Jamie Cullum’s performance antics. It must have been a bit of a shock to some to see so much exuberance on stage. Jamie frequently got up to dance at the front, stood on the piano and even did a flying run across the stage. Towards the end Jamie had charmed the audience and had everyone clapping and singing along, the arena had turned into a jumping pit and people were even dancing in the boxes!   

Listening to the amplified sound was a bit of a shock at first. Yes, it did sound a bit ‘fake’ and it was too loud when standing at the front. Furthermore, Jamie’s diction was very hard to hear. However, while re-living the concert on BBC iplayer, the recording comes across much better. The balance is corrected, with the piano notably being more prominent and the layers of sound are separated so it is easier to differentiate between the orchestral instruments.

The Heritage orchestra was refreshing made up of a bunch of young musicians. The men dressed as Jamie lookalikes, wore his signature back tie over a white shirt. Unlike the stereotypical bored orchestral musician, I saw the players spontaneously tapping along to the music or even singing along with Jamie. Furthermore, there were even planned moments when the orchestra clapped and sang along strengthening the bond between the two groups of musicians. I loved the atmospheric abstract opening, but truth be told the orchestra was overshadowed by Jamie himself.

The conductor didn’t fit your stereotypical mould either. With a Sterophonics-like mop hair cut and shiny jacket, sometimes he simply just nodded along to the music. I was touched to see the intent with which he watched Jamie’s solo numbers, demonstrating he was not there just to do his job but also wanted to hear the music.

Jamie’s relaxed and informal manner on stage was a real joy to watch. Furthermore, the ease with which he introduced his pieces with witty comments and touching personal remarks enlivened the whole experience.  My favourite number had to definitely be his Ballard with guest jazz musician, Martin Taylor as the simplicity allowed a very intimate rendition.

The Late Proms’ success of looking out of the ‘classical box’ should be noted by all classical music professionals. To diversity the type of concerts on offer is a real step forward in C21st programming. If you need evidence of the concert’s success, those who were there will not forget the standing ovation at the end and the voice ringing out ‘I love you Jamie’.

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3 Responses to “Late Night Prom looks outside the ‘closed classical box’”

  1. Julie Says:

    I looked for a review in this morning’s Times to no avail so was fascinated to read yours. I always feel really sorry for the piano (not to mention the tuner) at Jamie’s concerts, sounds as if this was no exception.

  2. Lesley Says:

    I’ve seen him in concert being totally ‘normal’ so perhaps he was feeding off the Heritage guys. I know they can be quite wacky.

  3. […] music but it is a vital way to invigorate concerts and classical music. See my reviews about jazz and folk at the BBC […]


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