Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day

What a day.

What a crowd.

What a line-up of acts!

Proms in the Park was simply wonderful yesterday. We were a small (but perfectly-formed) coterie this year - just me, Madame Arcati, John-John, Sal, Russ and Joe - but we managed to get in (in record time) through the throng to our usual spot near (but not too near) the stage and to manfully eat, drink and be merry enough for a whole troupe.

Thankfully, the weather stayed dry (if a little windier than we'd have liked, which meant it felt rather cold towards the end) as we settled in for a programme of delights. The afternoon session (presided over by the ever-cheesy Tony Blackburn) included the jolly former busker and Radio 2 fave Si Cranstoun, the entertaining cast of the T-Rex musical 20th Century Boy, Welsh "Britain's Got Talent" finalists and pretty-boy twin operatic tenors Richard & Adam (who were perfectly fine until their harmonies went somewhat awry on their final number The Impossible Dream) and the rather dull country-folk duo The Shires.

But the biggest thrill came when the faboo Dhol Foundation took to the stage, complete with traditional costumes, dancers and a guest singer K.S.Bhamrah - and got everyone in the 40,000-strong audience Bhangra dancing! Here they are at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2009:


The break threw a new and unexpected spanner in the works of an otherwise enjoyable day. One of the deep joys of outdoor festivals (and I am being sarcastic here) is getting to and from the toilets. Usually at Proms in the Park this causes little problem (for boys, anyhow) - but something went deeply wrong yesterday. With all the Portakabins crushed into the tiniest amount of space in the far corners of the Hyde Park arena, it was bedlam. Men and women, old and young, were faced with the biggest queues I had ever seen. Half the loos had packed up, apparently. Women were barging into the gents, hordes of stewards were trying to keep order (to little avail), and as a consequence I missed several interesting and enjoyable bits of the day's performances. Abysmal.

Anyhoo, this brings us to the joys of the evening programme of Proms in The Park - the part with the real star performers (all introduced by the ebullient Sir Terry Wogan aka "Our Tel"), including our opener, the rather cute tenor Vittorio Grigolo - who, apart from having a beautiful voice also has a charming sense of humour. Not least when he was on stage for the BBC's pioneering "mass participation project" - a "virtual choir" performing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:

And of course, the Park audience joined in.

We had an early Royal Albert Hall link-up treat, when Our Tel introduced a further selection of Mary Poppins tunes (it is the 50th anniversary of the film), sung by the lovely Ruthie Henshall... well as quite a pleasant surprise - Walton's Façade:

Ah, Mr Rufus Wainwright. I truly, honestly try my best. I want to love the man who overcame suicide attempts, an awkward coming-out, the death of his mother and all that torment, to carve himself a respected cult musical career (even tackling, song-by-song, the iconic Judy Garland Carnegie Hall concert). It's just a shame he's so - errm - dreary. The three songs he performed (Dinner at Eight, Oh What A World and Going To A Town) were all very heartfelt and impassioned, but there was no spark; not for us anyway.

Miss Pumeza Matshikiza, on the other hand... (what little I caught of her while trying to traverse the inconvenient conveniences again) has a beautiful voice, and loads of joie de vivre to go with it. To open with Puccini's O Ma Babbino Carra was a brave move, but she carried it off with aplomb. We were impressed - as we were when she and Signor Grigolo joined forces a little later on for a stunning set of tunes from the eternal classic West Side Story!

The Fisherman's Friends of Port Isaac were a pleasant diversion, with their fine repertoire of bawdy sea-shanties and folk tunes:

But all of this was merely a warm-up, let's face it. For the band we were all waiting for was the legendary Earth Wind And Fire! Even though their combined ages must be in the region of 300, the "boys" (founding members Philip Bailey, Verdine Scott, Ralph Johnson and ensemble) have certainly still got it - and performed the most magnificent set, which whipped us all up into quite a dancing frenzy... Auntie Beeb in her wisdom has not uploaded any clips, so here's someone's hand-held video of the occasion (we were somewhat closer to the action than this):

Mr Bailey's voice is remarkable, even after all these years.

And so, adrenalin still pumping, flags at the ready, we came to the (second) live link-up with the Royal Albert Hall for the grand finale, including, as is traditional, an exhilarating sing-along on Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance:

And, of course (after lead conductor Sakari Oramo's speech), the rousing - and poignant, given that Scotland later this week could well be separating off from the rest of the "United Kingdom" if the referendum vote is won by the "Yes" campaign - Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia, sung beautifully by Roderick Williams:

With the magnificent Jerusalem and the National Anthem bringing us to a close, that was it for another year.

We love Proms in the Park - one of the brightest highlights of our social calendar!


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