Monday, July 16, 2007

Pillow fight at the Proms

Yesterday's Prom with the English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir mixing and matching with Buskaid's Soweto Strings Ensemble, and the Compagnie Roussat-Lubek from France with Dance for All from a township near Cape Town, was unlike anything I've seen at a Prom in the (various) decades I've been attending them - or, indeed, anywhere else.

From the most authentic of the schmauthentic in the baroque Franco-Latin pronunciation of Andre Campra's long-forgotten and very beautiful Requiem in the first half, to the reinventing of Rameau as a traditional African miners' gumboot dance at the end of the evening, this concert was a revelation, a marvel and an inspiration - and a statement about how the most apparently disparate of cultures can come together and be united through the shared joy of creating sound and movement...

That's where the pillow fights came into it. It would be so easy for an event like this to become portentous and preachy, but that was never going to happen: the Compagnie Roussat-Lubek, founded by two dancers who trained in mime, circus and acrobatics as well as ballet, offered such quirky imagination, from orange frock coats to pillow fights to a ballerina in a false nose tossing glitter over the tenor, that joyousness remained uppermost for its own sake. Then in came their secret weapon: a cherubic, curly-haired little boy, who we reckoned couldn't be more than 4 years old yet performed with the assurance of all the adult dancers on the stage with him. Imagine the noise in the RAH!

As for the Soweto Strings Ensemble, they sounded every bit as good as the English Baroque Soloists. Their director, Rosemary Nalden, is an EBS alumna and has trained her ensemble with perhaps an even greater unanimity of style; their physical engagement with the music and seriousness of purpose was second to none. Samson Diamond, the leader, currently studying at the Royal Northern College of Music (pictured above right), could just be a young artist to watch out for. And from time to time, a fiddler or two put down his or her instrument and stepped out to join Dance for All.

The energy left me awake most of the night, cherishing the image of some of the finest baroque players and singers in Britain sharing the stage with inspirational youngsters and marvellous dancers, in a musical world where everything, at last, is possible. John Eliot Gardiner picked up the little lad and hugged him as if he were standing to be president. An evening to remember, forever.

A symbol of the future? If so: oh, yes, please.

(Oh - no, JEG, we don't want you to be president, we want you to keep conducting things like this, hope that clarifies it, hugz, jdxxx).

Rameau is/was a complete genius. Never got him before. Get him now.

Read JEG's own account of the story behind the story here.

Hear the concert here.