Yesterday, on 5 June 2013 at 8PM in the Orpheum Theatre, was Vancouver Symphony Orchestra‘s Last Night of the Proms. This was my second time attending LNOTP at the Orpheum and I was very glad to sit in row 3 centre left this time for $15 (rather than $68-84), thanks to TD All-Access Pass for those under 30 y.o.
While I could not see half the orchestra and choir members to the right of the grand piano, I was excited to see the other half of the orchestra so close to me. I found the audience to be not as enthusiastic as the attendees in 2012, most of whom brought their flags and wore funny hats. We later learned that there were many first-timers last night. The ones who knew what to expect sat mostly in the first few rows in the orchestra or balcony, waving their Union Jack flags. Nevertheless, the initially too well-behaved audience loosened up once they realised that it would be a night of great amusement. Conductor Bramwell Tovey had the audience in stitches every time he spoke in between the performances. What can we say, we love British humour!
The concert began with the singing of both our national and royal anthems. Given that the majority of the attendees were over 50 years of age, some of whom were from the UK, the royal anthem, better known as God Save the Queen, was sung just as loudly and proudly as the former. Or perhaps we were all very proud of the Queen as our Head of State, who had just celebrated the 60th anniversary of her coronation.
- Orb and Sceptre Coronation March (Walton)
Written for the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
- Blest Pair of Sirens (Parry)
- Samson: Let the Bright Seraphim (Handel)
Some of you may recognise this as the one played at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales
- Novello Rhapsody (Novello, arr. Tovey)
Selections from Gosford Park sung by soprano Tracy Dahl and baritone Steve Maddock
- We’ll Gather Lilacs (Novello, arr. Tovey)
- Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 (Land of Hope and Glory) (Elgar)
Performed during the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901.
After intermission, we were given our first opportunity to sing along with the Vancouver Bach Choir. Land of Hope and Glory had us up and down every time the chorus was played, doing the Mexican waves left and right. If this was too much exercise for the audience, we were given a break with three songs sung by Ms. Dahl, accompanied by Mr. Tovey on the piano:
- A Foggy Day in London Town (Gershwin, arr. Tovey)
- White Cliffs of Dover (Kent, arr. Tovey)
- Why Can’t You Behave? (Porter, arr. Tovey)
A popular 1948 song from the musical, Kiss Me, Kate. We were having a good laugh watching Ms. Dahl’s despairing facial expressions and actions as Mr. Tovey happily – and apathetic to Ms. Dahl’s plea – played away on the grand piano, playing excerpts of well-known classical music during every ‘pause’.
After we applauded Ms. Dahl’s and Mr. Tovey’s comical performance, we continued on our LNOTP journey:
- Fantasia on British Sea Songs (Arr. Wood)
Here the VBC and the VSO did all the things one would never do at a concert: burst into tears, blow their noses loudly, knitting, etc. We were all too excited when we heard The Sailor’s Hornpipe that Mr. Tovey had to shush us when we started clapping too early!
- Rule, Britannia (Arr. Sargent)
We were supposed to be standing only when we were called to sing but the VBC stood the entire time and the audience had no intention of sitting down for long!
- Jerusalem (Parry/Elgar)
I am not sure if we were supposed to be sitting but the audience immediately stood up to sing this beloved hymn with great passion.
Generally, a LNOTP concert concludes with Jerusalem (actually, no, with the singing of Auld Lang Syne). We were gladly surprised with an extra performance by the VBC who sang I’ll be Seeing You, followed by a truncated recording of the then Princess Elizabeth’s BBC Children’s Hour speech in 1940 as Mr. Tovey played softly on the piano:
Upon hearing our monarch’s clear 14-year-old voice over the speakers, I realised how calm but caring our Queen has always been, despite all the hardships she has had to live through. I smiled when I heard her and her late sister, Princess Margaret Rose, bid everyone good night. It is good they had each other.
The VBC concluded the evening with the reiteration of the verse:
“I’ll be looking at the moon… and I’ll be seeing you.”
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have not yet had the chance to attend a Last Night of the Proms concert, please consider going next year – or this year, if you are in London. You will have a marvellous time. Do NOT forget to dress up (be as over-the-top patriotic as possible) and do bring your flags.
For those of you who attended this year’s VSO LNOTP, consider making it an annual tradition. You will still hear Pomp & Circumstance, Fantasia on British Sea Songs, and Jerusalem, but there will still be new selections to enjoy.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!