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Proms First Night - The View from the Altos ...

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 16:46 UK Time, Tuesday, 17 July 2012

BBC Symphony Chorus members lining up at the Royal Albert Hall

Lining up at the Royal Albert Hall

Sally Cox

Sally Cox

In the first of a series of Proms blogs, BBC Symphony Chorus alto Sally Cox lifts the lid on the First Night ...

The BBC Symphony Chorus almost always sings in the first night concert and this year was no exception.  This year a whole heap of internationally renowned soloists and conductors were lined up to take part - in honour of London 2012, a team of no less than four conductors was engaged for this first night, passing the baton from one to the other in their own Promenade relay.

There is always a delicious sense of anticipation in the few days before the first night. For us, the buzz starts when the conductor comes to the BBC studios for the chorus’s piano rehearsal. This is our one-to-one time, chorus and conductor getting to know each or renewing old acquaintances. The atmosphere is always business-like but the best ones have an extra ingredient. Is it my imagination or has the average age of the soprano section decreased significantly since we first had Ed Gardner for a concert last year? And Sir Mark has at least one devotee somewhere around the centre of the line-up …

When we get to the first orchestra rehearsal there are more treats in store. This is the first time we hear the soloists, and this year we have five of the fruitiest-voiced singers in the Commonwealth - Susan Gritton, Sarah Connolly, Robert Murray, Bryn Terfel and Gerald Finley. Conductors may be special, but a good bass-baritone is something else …

Just before the first rehearsal at the Hall kicks off, Roger Wright, Director of the BBC Proms gives his customary rallying cry, thanks us all for our participation and then we’re off down the home straight to the concert.

Any audience member brave enough to enter the hall without a programme could have been forgiven for missing the point of having four conductors - but this didn’t detract from it being a highly memorable first night. As the man said, it was thrilling. In the end, none of the conductors  dropped the baton, or stabbed themselves with it, and the glue holding the cork handle to the stick didn’t mischievously release its grip during a particularly turbulent passage of the music. All these occurrences have precedent…






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