Saturday, 31 July 2010

Return to the Proms

Today was a busy and exciting day. It was the latest Doctor Who Proms, plus I was unexpectedly working freelance, which meant everything was a bit more rushed than I’d like.

When I’m not tailoring, I do occasional days of freelance work doing partly what I did prior to being laid off work last year. For over 20 years I have worked in art studios of either design or advertising agencies, as well as pre-press houses, preparing artwork for print.
The past couple of days I have been at Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the most famous advertising agencies in London. In the 1970s and 1980s they did some iconic advertising work.

Two of their most famous was for the Conservative Party prior to them beating Labour in our 1979 election.

Their poster, “LABOUR ISN’T WORKING” (see above) has been aped many a time; and their poster for anti smoking poster for the Public Health Department, depicting a pregnant man (see right), has also gone down in advertising history - and it was a public information poster, not some high profile multiple-national company. In fact the in house bar/pub at Saatchi's is called The Pregnant Man.

Working at their office is quite inspirational. Across the threshold is carved the words NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE..... (see left)

Anyway, so after telling them I HAD to be out the door by 5pm, we headed down to Kensington and the Royal Albert Hall.

The crowds were out in force and so were the fezzes!

I had decided to go on Saturday as Ten, and save my Eleven for Sunday. As ever it wasn’t long before I was drawing complements from people around, and I was turning heads.

What I wasn’t expecting though was three girls to hurry forward to speak to me.
Now I'm used to being ask “Are you that guy with the costume blogs?” that happened at Time Quest and the Bafta screening. But these girls ask (in a French accent), “Are you the guy who went on the City Of Death tour?”
Apparently they were friends with someone who was on the tour, and they had seen photos of me in costume from the day! I posed for some photos for them, and hoped they enjoyed the concert.
For those that don’t know, the Proms are currently in their 116th season, having started on 10th August 1895 by impresario Robert Newman.
He employed Henry Wood as conductor and the Proms were born, at their original venue of The Queen’s Hall.
They were keen to bring classical music to a wider audience, with a mixture of the familiar and the adventurous and to promote young, talented performers, as well as raise orchestral standards.
When The Proms lost Chappell’s as their sponsors in 1927, the BBC stepped in, and by 1930 with the formation of the BBC Symphony Orchestra they were reaching a wider audience than ever before.
Wartime brought uncertainty for the Proms, when it temporally lost its BBC backing, and then its venue, when the Queen’s Hall was gutted by blitz bombing. The Royal Albert Hall, opened in 1871, was the only suitable alternative venue, and when the BBC returned to sponsor the Proms things were on the up.
Sadly Henry Wood died in 1944, three weeks after that year’s Proms (its 50th).
From then the Proms have gone from strength to strength, with the BBC bringing the concerts into the mainstream, and even commissioning new works especially for the event.
On the Sunday I met up with Roland, a German guy who I had sold one of my earlier coats I made for myself.
He had mixed up the dates of a wedding the previous day, so could not attend the Saturday concert, though he had bough a ticket for it! He needed to switch to the Sunday, and the way things worked out I had a spare ticket for that performance, so he took that and all worked out well.

Looking around, there were a number of people in costume, and I found a Ten with his father playing a superb Patrick Troughton! (see right). His brother had come as Nine.
Since I went to both performances, I’ll cover both together, and mention any changes between the two as I go.

We found the entrance we are supposed to go in, which was one of the main doors. There were programmes on sale, so I went to get myself one. The cover has one of the new Daleks on it, and it came in a choice of colours. I had to buy the complete set (five in total) but at least they were only £3 each (see left).

I had booked more expensive seats compared to last time, and were were located in one of the boxes that surrounds the walls of the hall.

Being part of the BBCs prom season, the concert was being broadcast live of Radio 3, as well as being recorded for television broadcast later in the year.
As part of the cameramen’s warm up, they started scanning the audience for kids and those in costume. This was being relayed live to the many giant screens around the hall, and those who appeared there noticed their moment of fame, the crowd cheered as they waved frantically at their faces on the screen.
One unlucky subject was caught fiddling with his sonic and only noticed at the last moment that he was on camera!

Part of the dressing of the Hall included the 11th Doctor’s TARDIS (see above) and a small representation of Amelia Pond’s back garden, complete with swing and windmills (see left).

Once the orchestra were settled in and tuned up, Ben Foster took to the stand and we were suddenly off with a bang starting with The Mad Man with a Box.

Karen Gillian then walked onto the stage in a floor length chiffon evening dress (see right). She was warmly welcomed and was applauded and cheered for almost everything she had to say – even just saying she played Amy Pond!!
She then presented Short Ride In A Fast Machine by John Adams followed by An Untimely Arrival, which covered the pre-credit scene of The Eleventh Hour, and this was played along to the episode on the big screens around the hall. The music was an edited suite, covering The Doctor’s meet with Amelia and eating fish fingers and custard!

We then heard I Am The Doctor, a montage of music from a number of season five episodes.

Having been before, I knew to keep an eye on the arena as well as the orchestra during the performance, as from time to time appropriate monsters would appear. This year was no exception, and it wasn’t long before Silurians, Judoon and Vampires were milling in the central standing area with the viewing public!

As before, ALL of these were played by THE actors who had played the parts on screen, and you could recognise the girls who were the vampires from Vampires Of Venice. This adds a real air of authenticity to the proceedings! (see left)
The audience reaction always amuses me – they gave the Judoon a wide birth, just as well as I’m sure the actors could hardly see out of their costumes; but the vampires had to near fight their way past a couple of people who inadvertently blocked their path!

The first half of the concert was a good mix of Murry Gold’s music and some classical works to round it out.
Of the classical music, we earlier heard Short Ride In A Fast Machine by John Adams; and now William Walton’s overture Portsmouth Point; followed by Gustav Holst’s Mars, from the Planet Suite.

Before Karen could get much of an introduction out for the next piece, an air raid warden shouted out across the hall to “Put that light out!” An Ironside Dalek, that had discreetly risen from a swirling mist in the centre of the hall, then proclaimed its loyalty and profusely offer to make tea! This was cut short by the arrival on stage of the supreme white Dalek.

It ordered the Ironside to descend to be exterminated, before turning its attention to Ben Foster, who it ordered to play the Music Of The Daleks (programmed as Battle in the Skies).
That drew the first half of the concert to a close, and while we had a 20 minute interval, I documentary was broadcast on Radio 3 to fill the gap.

The second half kicked off with O Fortuna by Carl Orff, a strangely satanic piece which had inspired Jerry Goldsmith for his score to The Omen. Elsewhere. In the second half we had the classic work The Ride Of The Valkyries by Richard Wagner.

Karen introduced a compilation of Amy’s Theme, and then Liz, Lizards, Vampires and Vincent

Karen came onto the stage again to introduce the next piece, but before she could say much, she seemed to be getting instructions through an earpiece. She acted confused and said there was a message coning through.
Suddenly the screens in the hall buzzed and flickered, and Matt Smith's face could be seen. In a scene remenisant of The Music Of The Spheres from the 2008 Prom, he asked the audience to say “Hello Doctor!”. once he was satisfied it was loud enough, he revealed he had a device which was a form of timey wimey bomb, which was safe as long as it didn’t starting beeping, which it promptly did. Reassuring us it needs to be a higher pitch for us to worry, the beeping promptly went up! He said he needed to get rid of the bomb, so had to rush off up a ladder at the back of the picture. Then, to everyones amazement, Matt Smith popped up out of a trapdoor in a raised dais that had discreetly appeared in the centre of the hall. There were some stunned faces, and the biggest round of applause you can imagine!

The bomb stopped beeping, which accruing to The Doctor spelt imminent disaster, so he requested the help of an audience member, and ran up one of the aisles to search for someone suitable. On the Saturday he found a young blonde boy, who will be seen on the eventual tv broadcast and inevitable DVD release (see right); on the Sunday he found an equally young boy, but this time in full bow tie and braces!
The proceeding routine was the same, with the kids helping hold a length of invisible psychic thread which would help disperse the effects of the bomb.
I was struck by the pace and speed of dialogue Matt Smith was handling, which he never seemed to falter over. An amusing reference to his autocue, which I could see scrolling at a rate of knots, and the hall and everyone inside was saved!

This was an obvious highlight for the event - seeing Matt Smith in character and doing what I have seen him doing so well before: engaging with the kids. He did it very well on the publicity tour before the series started it's run, and I saw it again firsthand at the Bafta screening.

Now Matt had gone, it was back to the music, introduced this time by Arthur Darville, otherwise known as Rory. He introduced Richard Wagner’s The Ride Of The Valkyries.

Karen and Arthur returned to the stage to introduce two cues: This is Gallifrey and Vale decem. The former was from series three and was accompanied on-screen (Saturday only - a technical hitch prevented this on Sunday) by a compilation of all the regeneration scenes from William Hartnall through to David Tennant. The latter was composed for David Tennant’s final moments, and was played along to the appropriate scene from The End Of Time part 2.

The next piece was introduced by Matt Smith, who had changed into a block suit by now. The Pandorica Suite was a compilation of cues from both The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. The on-screen clips were perfectly timed to match the music, and it was like watching a potted version of the story, with the live orchestra playing along.

We then had host overkill, with Karen, Arthur and Matt coming out to introduce the final set of music for the concert. This was material from the end of series three episode, Journey’s End.
Song For Freedom is a popular piece, and the audience broke into a spontaneous round of clapping along to the music, making it a very involving performance.

Finally to finish off the concert in traditional form, the classic Ron Grainer theme was played live, with Murray Gold on keyboards. This was the latest orchestration from series five. Personally I don’t much like the latest version of the theme tune or title sequence, but it worked quite well as live performance.

On the Sunday, after the concert had finished, Roland wanted to go and see the Police Box outside Earl’s Court station, which is not too far from the Royal Albert Hall.
It rounded of a good two performances, and a hectic weekend!

As a reminder, here is the full running order of the concert:

Part One
Murray Gold - The Mad Man with a Box
Murray Gold - An Untimely Arrival
John Adams - Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Murray Gold - I Am The Doctor
William Walton - Overture Portsmouth Point
Gustav Holst - The Planets - Mars
Murray Gold - Battle in the Skies

Part Two
Carl Orff - Carmina Burana - O Fortuna
Murray Gold - Amy
Murray Gold - Liz, Lizards and Vincent
Richard Wagner - Die Walkure
Murray Gold - This is Gallifrey / Vale decem
Murray Gold - Pandorica Suite
Murray Gold - Song of Freedom
Ron Grainer - Doctor Who Theme


  1. This is a reason I need to go back to London to visit! I'd go there to visit just to see this in person. Given the number of years this has been going on, I'm sure there's a 0% chance this will ever show up in the States.

  2. Oh, wow! Thanks for posting the songs that were played. I'd love to be able to go to the UK and see the Proms live one day.