Tonight is the Last Night of the Proms and I love all the pomp and circumstance and eccentricity that goes with this most wonderful celebration of Britain and the British character. It is one of the few occasions I feel when we can celebrate our Britishness without fear or shame, which sadly so often seems to be the case today. Somehow we have moved from this proud nation of Elgar's rousing Pomp & Circumstance Marches to one, which is constantly afraid of celebrating its identity, fearful of political correctness. To hell with it, lets have some fun and celebrate what it means to be British!
I had my last visit to the Proms on Wednesday night this week and another wonderful performance. This time it was Mahler's monumental Symphony No.2 'Resurrection.' The symphony begins with a funeral march and ends with the orchestra in an unrestrained exultation of joy, of resurrection and eternal life. I found the finale incredibly uplifting and soul inspiring with the orchestra joined by off-stage musicians, a double chorus, two soloists and the Royal Albert Hall organ, which is a magnificent instrument in its own right. Wow, I was enraptured and thrilled to have heard such a wonderful piece and all the better for being performed live.
I've been on a bit of classical shopping spree recently as well. Purchases have included a CD of Vaughan Williams' music and today Carl Nielsen's Fourth & Fifth Symphony. Nielsen is a Danish composer that I've hardly heard of although I was interested in his work after reading in the Classic FM magazine that his Fourth Symphony is something of a showcase for the timpani, perhaps my favourite instrument of the symphony orchestra.
On a completely different musical tack, delivered yesterday was a DVD of David Gray Live in Concert. I saw this originally a few months ago and love every one of the songs. What I like about Gray and his music, is that it is heartfelt and difficult to categorise. It is different to most of the rubbish I hear these days and it seems to me, important. Each song is special and means something. Sometimes they're sad and melancholic like Flame Turns Blue, others are upbeat and fun but Gray invests his heart equally into each track and that above all else this is what attracts me to his music. I almost regret now not having discovered David Gray before his White Ladder album as I's subsequently found some of his best material predates this period. Still, I am beginning to catch up and as his earlier albums are available at bargain prices, it won't be long before I've completed the collection. There isn't one album of Gray's that I have where I haven't enjoyed every one of the tracks and to me it is a rare and vital talent that can make every song that good.