Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last Night at the Proms

Silent Noon -Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,-
The finger-points look through, like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest far, as the eye can pass
Are golden kingcup fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge
'Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
Deep in the sun searched groves, a dragon-fly
Hangs, like a blue thread loosened from the sky:-
So this winged hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.

Each year there is this wonderful feast of pure nostalgia, an unashamed nationalistic pride of British songs and music that will bring tears to the eyes. Even as I type there is a merry Irish jig playing from Belfast, joyously the musicans throw the beat into the room.
This is the time that the four small countries of Gt.Britain give us back our traditional music, and bring back memories of not only our own history but of our inheritance as a sparky in yer face curmudgeonly, volatile mixed race that we are.
So what are the highlights? Bryn Terfei for one in his deep Welsh voice sings traditional songs, and I remember those days at school when we rehearsed and sang these songs. Auld Lang Syne brings back a memory of crawling through a chimney piece in the attics of our old Victorian house, aged about 8 and finding in the dusty room behind it a book of poetry by Robbie Burns.
For ages I would sit and try to decipher this unknown language puzzled by its nearness to the English language but never quite understanding it.
What else, Anna Meredith marvellous new piece of music - sheer brilliance - can't even describe it but its force and energy ringing out, echoed in the response of the audience.
That is of course also part of it, audience participation, exuberantly shouting, clapping, singing and crackers going off, silence when it is needed - joy in music and words that soars above the pettiness of our lives, and reminds us that our spiritual needs for beauty, poetry and art are still the most inspiring things humans can offer to nature.

Jerusalem - William Blake
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.


  1. Joy in music is not given to all. It passes some people by completely (my husband included), but in others it is as essential as their life-blood - in this category are my brother-in-law (they are chalk and cheese, my husband and he) and our eldest daughter. When undertaking genealogical research, we were contacted by an unknown branch of my husband's family, and this distant cousin LIVES for music. There is an "Elgar" in my husband's family tree on that side - it makes you wonder . . .

    LOVE Jerusalem - reminds me of school assemblies.

  2. "Joy in music is not given to all" true, can't stand opera for a start ;) but it is the robust nature of The Proms which is such a delight, and you only have to listen to the last night once a year; even Bath has its musical festival once a year...