Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

PROMS PLUS is the best bit of the Proms September 1, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 11:33 am
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Proms Plus: Family Music Intro

The BBC Proms has developed a series of introductions to its evening concerts. The Family Music introductions are aimed at young people, but this does not stop people of all ages attending. While aimed at newcomers, I suspect that many a seasoned concert attendee does and should attend.

The idea is to introduce the works, players and background in a fun and lively manner, so that you can then go onto listen to the main concert better informed. It is an ideal time for families at 5.30pm, as they can come straight from school. However, I saw many a family did not stay for the evening performance. The Proms plus is enough of an event in itself – you get to hear all the best tunes, the funniest facts about the composers and even play along with the professionals. What else would you want? Plus it is more intimate as you can get up close to the players and it is less overwhelming then listening to a full orchestra. It makes you question why you would want to go to the main concert, especially as Proms Plus events are free.

I attended the Family Music Introduction to Proms 44 on Wednesday 18 August. Fraser Trainer presented the concert/talk in an informal and humble manner with 3 members of the Russian National Orchestra – a violinist, flautist and trumpeter.

Fraser started with a quiz (which 2 weeks later I could still remember and tried on my Dad).
We had to match the three facts with the evening’s composers: Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Cunningly though he kept us on our toes, as he only told us the answers later on in the concert.

Here were the three facts:


  1. He always lost at cards
  2. He dunked he head in icy water so he could stay awake to compose
  3. He liked ice cream sodas

Fraser then proceeded to introduce each work by giving some contextual information, for example the story of Coriolan. He then highlighted the key themes to listen out to using the professional musicians or a recording. On some occasions he even got the audience playing part of the tune. While the audience played something very repetitive or simple the musicians could elaborate over the stop making it enjoyable for the non-playing audience. This was particularly amusing when not all the instruments played were at concert C, so due to awkward transpositions we had some unusual cords!

The result was that I came away knowing much more about the the music then if I had just gone to the concert and will retain this information for a much longer time.

The BBC also provided a family guide to the evening concert. It included bits to listen out for, cartoons as well a template to help compose your own piece. However, it is still text heavy and a child would not necessarily be drawn to read it.


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