Monday, 10 September 2007

A lark in the park

Well, what can I say about Saturday's Proms in the Park? A most bizarre evening indeed...

The early section of the day's entertainment (if it can be called that) was devoted to a younger audience - yawn - and, hosted by the ineffably smug Dick and Dom, began with the unintentionally hilarious Chico! This talentless parody of all things Hispanic lurched aimlessly into an awful cover of La Vida Loca, which met with complete bafflement as the audience as one wondered how it was he ever got on TV in the first place. Then, after begging us all to buy this heap of rubbish he gave us a sneak preview of his latest single - for which he had apparently mortgaged his house (he might have said "his arse", but it was difficult to understand his accent) - the godawful Curvy Cola Bottle Body in which the Latin lovely managed to rhyme "Marilyn Monroe" with "J-Lo". Words fail me at this point, so why not watch the video instead?

After some dreadful karaoke from some act inventively calling themselves "Ryandan" (cos they are brothers named Ryan and, er, Dan) and the passable yet pointless tribute band "T-Rextasy", we were then treated to the rare opportunity to hear yet another comeback attempt by former Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley, who plodded through the worst of his ex-band's back catalogue - you can guess; all the middle-class wedding reception faves such as Gold, True and Through the Barricades - before my jaw completely dropped. It can't be? He is! Crooner Tony Hadley decided to re-interpret none other than the Kaiser Chiefs' suburban angst classic I Predict A Riot!! Good grief...

Sir Terry Wogan arrived and we breathed a collective sigh of relief; now everything appeared to be alright with the world. The rest of the evening's acts were at least slightly classier (if veering slightly away from the strict definition of "classical"). The much-anticipated appearance of Will Young (the BBC's prize act of the day, and probably the real reason why many in the audience actually bothered to sit uncomfortably on the rock hard earth of Hyde Park for hours) was OK, if occasionally a bit flat and a bit warbling. I groaned out loud, however, at having to sit through Leave Right Now without being able to run shrieking to the "off" switch as I am usually wont to do.

Lesley Garrett was fab, and for once didn't try and pretend she was Montserrat Caballé with a Yorkshire accent. She just stuck to performing some arias within her range, and did them very well - including an emotional version of Come What May from Moulin Rouge. Her patter between songs was unforced and kept people in the spirit of what the evening was really meant to be all about - the Last Night of the Proms - including a well-judged tribute to Luciano Pavarotti. She alternated with two other genuinely classy classical performers, the magnificent Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez and Young Musician of the Year clarinettist Mark Simpson.

And of course, the atmosphere really took off (and so it should, with the amount of wine that flowed in our, and everyone else's, picnics) once we joined the live screen link to the Royal Albert Hall. After the awkwardness of the traditional conductor's speech, given as it was by Jiri Belohlavek whose struggle with public speaking in English made it difficult, we got to the grand finale.

Waving Union Flags till our arms hurt, we sang, hummed and jumped around to Land of Hope and Glory, Fantasia on British Sea-Songs, No Place Like Home, Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and the National Anthem. Finishing off with fireworks and riotous applause, the whole thing was an unforgettable rush of emotion, pride and sheer exhausting exuberance.

Definitely a case of "the whole being more than a sum of its parts".

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