On Avoiding the Proms…

November 10th, 2016

I’m not proud of it, but as each year passes I find myself avoiding the Proms more and more – it has kind of reached an epidemic level this year – I’ve only listened to one piece from one Prom. As a composer, and a music lover, this trend slightly surprises me especially as I used to count the days until the Proms Guide was released with fervent anticipation – last year I didn’t even buy a guide and I’ve only got one this year as it was a gift from a friend. What could possibly have triggered this reaction in me?

Well, for a start I’m an insanely jealous and envious person (as I suspect most composers are – even the most successful) and I think that my pieces should be programmed in the country’s leading music festival. I guess that is no surprise really. I’m also particularly aware of my age, and that people younger than me are being commissioned and performed – there is an acute sense that time is passing me by – in other countries this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but in the UK there is a definite trend for pushing young composers through (Knussen, Benjamin, Adés etc). I also find many of the programmes just not very exciting – it doesn’t help that I’m not really into Brahms, Berlioz, Mahler and others – certainly not exciting enough to take the time to travel to London to watch. I guess, rather more prosaically, that living ninety minutes away and having a young child don’t help my Proms attendance also.

There were a couple I was interested in: I’d like to have heard the David Matthews/Vaughan Williams Dark Pastoral in the buttock-troubling ‘Last Night of the Proms 1910’ and the BBC Singers with a new work by Gabriel Jackson. I’m led to believe the Huw Watkins Violin Concerto was good and that there was some hubbub with Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Hammered Out, which would have been worth hearing, but after that I’m clutching at straws.

I still the think the Proms is an amazing institution and probably is the world’s greatest music festival (even with Jamie Cullum and Doctor Who). I hope to re-kindle my love affair one day, but for the moment we are firmly estranged. Anybody feel the same?


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