Last Saturday the 14th September, I had the pleasure of experiencing my very first ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ event at Hyde Park here in London – and I have to say that surprisingly, I found myself enjoying it much more than I had initially expected.
The ‘Proms’ event itself is a globally recognised annual musical event, that has been a British institution since they were founded way back in 1895.
The term ‘Proms’ derives from the word ‘Promenade’ – and from as early as the mid 1700’s, ‘Promenade Concerts’ were held throughout the summer months in central London’s bigger parks and pleasure gardens.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that these series of music concerts moved from being held outside in park venues, to inside in prestigious music hall venues.
These ‘Proms’ events were so popular that by 1895, they had become a formal annual event in the social calendar – and a British institution – and various theatres and concert halls were used to hold these annual series of concerts.
Since 1941 the series of concerts that make up the annual ‘Proms’, have been held at the ‘Royal Albert Hall’, and every year the concerts are attended by many thousands of people, and watched by many millions more on tv, especially the entertaining ‘Last Night of the Proms’.
The event has become so popular in recent decades, with the demand for tickets so high, that the Albert Hall could quite easily be filled 10 times over, to accommodate all those that want to attend.
In 1996, to meet the excessive demand for tickets, a decision was made to run a ‘Proms-the-Park’ concert event in London’s Hyde Park, in conjunction with the real ‘Proms’ taking place in the nearby Royal Albert Hall.
These annual ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ events proved to be so popular, that by 2000, similar events were held at the same time throughout other prominent locations across the UK.
The ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ events have various ‘live’ musical acts performing throughout the afternoon and evening, whilst the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ was taking place over at the ‘Royal Albert Hall’ – and these shows are concluded by a synchronised ‘live’ tele-link to the Albert Hall so that the both sets of audiences can join in with the a rousing flag waving sing-song to the old traditional nationalistic standards such as ‘Rule Britannia’ – ‘Jerusalem’ & of course ‘Land of Hope & Glory’.
Anyway, this year I was delighted to be invited by one of my oldest and closest of friends, to accompany her to the Hyde Park ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ event, as she had a ticket going spare.
Gill and I first met at junior school back in the 1960’s., and have been close friends ever since. Living just a few streets apart from each other, we grew up together, and throughout our 55 years of friendship, we have shared and supported each other through the highs and lows of life’s rich tapestry, including milestones such as marriage, children & now of course, grandchildren – and so for me, it was an absolute pleasure to accompany one of my oldest and closest of mates to this year’s gig in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park is clearly now very experienced in staging these ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ events, as the whole scene was extremely well organised and controlled, with easy access to all the necessary amenities and necessities such as food, drink and toilets – making it as comfortable as possible for the thousands of punters contained within the venue field.
On the bill for Saturday’s ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ event that was superbly compared by Michael Ball were:- Aled Jones, Gabrielle, Bonnie Tyler, The Lighthouse Family, Jack Savoretti, Chrissie Hynde and topping the bill was the legend that is ‘Barry Manilow’!!!
Late afternoon, saw the commencement of the main acts to the stage – starting with Gabrielle, who knocked out her hits such as ‘Rise’, ‘Dreams’ & ‘Out of Reach’.
Then it was the turn of ‘Bonnie Tyler’ who banged out ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ & ‘Holding out for a Hero’.
Bonnie Tyler was followed by the ‘Lighthouse Family’ – who had the audience singing along to some of their most popular numbers such as ‘Lifted’, ‘High’, ‘Ocean Drive’ & ‘Lost in Space’.
As the sun went down it was the turn of Jack Savoretti to take the stage and serenade the audience with numbers such as ‘Candlelight’ & ‘What more can I do’.
Next up was the ex-Pretender ‘Chrissie Hynde’ who banged out a great set that included a brilliant version of the old Beach Boys, Brian Wilson classic ‘Caroline No’ from their iconic ‘Pet Sounds’ album – plus Pretenders hits like ‘Brass in Pocket’ & ‘I’ll Stand By You’.
Then it was the turn of the headline act of the day – the legend that is ‘Barry Manilow’!!!
Now – I have to confess that I’ve never been a big fan of the Manilow (or a ‘Fanilow’ as his fans are more commonly known as) and even if I was, I would never admit to it, as an admission such as that could seriously damage my ‘street cred’ – However, I have to give credit where credit’s due, and admit that the 76yr old trouper delivered a blinding set that had all the 40,000 strong crowd on their feet singing and dancing along to every song – and even had me waving a ‘glow-stick’ to material such as ‘Mandy’ – ‘It’s a Miracle’ – ‘Cant Smile Without You’ – ‘I made it through the Rain’ – ‘Weekend in New England’ – ‘I Write the Songs’ – ‘Could it be Magic’ and of course his mandatory finale ‘Copa-Cabana’. He may be an old man now, with replacement hips (and some serious work on his ‘boat’), but the geeza most certainly knows how to work and entertain a crowd – and I have to say that I thoroughly ‘got into’ and enjoyed his performance – and I can honestly say, that I would not hesitate to part with my ‘hard earned’ cash to get tickets to see him in action again!!
So – with the sun having already been set for a couple of hours, and the audience fully Copacabana’d out – me & the rest of the Hyde Park crowd were transfixed to the large video link screens located throughout the field, to watch and join in with the customary ‘Last Night of the Proms’ finale ‘live’ from the nearby Royal Albert Hall – an activity that prompted enthusiastic jingoistic flag waving patriotism whilst singing along to the old Proms standards of ‘Rule Britannia’ & ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ – after which it was time for us cheery punters (many – considerably inebriated) to slowly make our way to the park exits, and our eventual journey’s back home to the ‘burbs’ – having enjoyed what can only be described as a really entertaining day out in the good old ‘Smoke’ – great fun.
See below, for more detailed photos of this ‘Proms-in-the-Park’ blog