When flicking through the Proms booklet, the photo of the Penguin Cafe always caught my eye. The group looked a bit quirky and as it was a Late night prom I expected something a bit different. Even when I mentioned the group to friends, they had heard of the group or had a vague notion of who they were (which is not a usual occurrence when telling friends about a concert I am attending).
My anticipation had not been misguided, as the concert was certainly uber cool. I attended the prom on Wednesday 8 September with my friend Emma (a beginner ukulele player) who is currently setting up a band www.emmadaianwright.com/band/. The Penguin Cafe were different, a bit anti-classical and with their vintage clothes certainly had stage presence.
I excitedly we heard about how the original founder of the band, Simon Jeffes became disillusioned with the rigid structures of classical music and the limitations of rock music. You can read more about his philosophy at http://www.penguincafe.com/. He consequently started to compose a new style of music, which is a cross between folk and minimalism. Interestingly, this shows how my own tiring of classical music is not new, as in the 70s people were feeling the same thing.
My only issue was, yet again, the acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall. Not having heard any of their music before, I thought it was rather repetitive at first. They seemed to only repeat the same rhythmic passages on a continuous loop without it modulating anywhere. After a while, I began to accept this and was lulled into the rhythm of this repetition. Knowing that my friend was partial to a good tune, I apologised at the end saying ‘sorry there weren’t many tunes’. However to my surprise, when I listened to the recording on BBC iplayer I realised I had missed most of the exciting bits! In the Royal Albert hall, I hadn’t heard the violin solos, the organ tunes or even some of the piano harmony.
Though frustrated that I had not heard all the components of the band live, I am still glad I attended. When listening to the recording, it is all the more special having been there and witnessed the atmosphere. The audience was again youngish. Quite a few men were standing in my area in the Arena (but this may just be in comparison to the Jamie heart-throb Cullen concert!).
I think this is a great example of varying the programming at the Proms, introducing the audience to new music and showcasing alternative artists. Wish other promoters would follow suit.