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Opinion: Does Radio 1 belong at the Proms?

Fri Aug 28 2015

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Radio 1 Prom

I feel that by entitling this piece ‘Opinion’ I am giving you false hope of there being a strong one contained in it. I am going to disappoint because, as you will read, I’m really not sure what to think…

Back when this year’s Proms line-up was announced in April, there were several things I read with a raised eyebrow. A 6 Music Prom? A Radio 1xtra Prom? A Radio 1 Prom with Pete Tong?

As usual at times of exasperation with the world I turned to social media to vent. Surely the Proms is primarily a classical music festival? Why give up a precious concert slot to showcase a genre like dance music which is pretty ubiquitous? Unlike a niche genre like classical it hardly needs extra opportunities to make itself available to the public.

The response on Twitter largely said that a) I shouldn’t be such a misery and b) that it might be a worthwhile artistic collaboration so I should withhold judgement.

I must say I agreed with the last. So I waited. Unfortunately I was unable to go to the Radio 1  Ibiza Prom because I was going to Glyndebourne (which seems mildly ironic) but I caught up with it online the next day.

I have got to say that I loved it. First, I love the music anyway, and yes, it was good to hear it with a full symphony orchestra. Second it was brilliantly performed – I’d especially single out the backing singers of Vula Malinga., Sam White and Brendan Reilly for praise (Reilly especially for his performance of Daft Punk’s One More Time). And lastly everyone on stage just looked like they were having a brilliant time. This is rare. Often with cross-over projects like this the orchestra looks like they’d rather be boiling their collective heads, but with this performance the pretty youthful Heritage Orchestra and their conductor Jules Buckley looked like they were having a great time on stage. As the Telegraph review noted, if anything can match classical music for “emotional crescendos and spiritual expansiveness”, dance music can.

And yet….I’m not sure it was really an interesting meeting between two musical worlds. It wasn’t really a collaboration. Essentially the orchestra lent a classy sheen to some great tracks. That’s fine, but I’m not sure the world’s greatest festival of classical music is the place to do it. That said I’d argue the Ibiza Prom worked a hell of a lot better than the 1xtra Prom which seemed a pretty odd, low energy affair, with the orchestra doing very very little. And many fewer smiles on stage.

But what about those great buzzwords in classical music? Accessibilty, access, audience development? Well, I’m not sure this does anything much to develop an audience for classical music (though it worked in reverse and gave this blogger a taste for Dance music). Sure, people get to hear an orchestra, but I’m not sure anyone will have developed a love of Brahms after listening to the Ibiza Prom. And in a way I feel it enables programmers to get off the hook. By programming a Radio 1 Prom the ‘audience development’ box gets ticked. The really hard thing is making ‘standard’ classical music accessible and interesting to new audiences.

And yet, and yet… guess which Prom is the ONLY Prom I have listened to multiple times? Watched multiple times? Recommended to friends multiple times? Would buy a download of if it were available? Yep, the Radio 1 Ibiza Prom.

So, yeah, no opinion, just some rambling thoughts. What do you think?

William Norris
The Night Shift Creative Director

Watch the Ibiza Prom below:

 

4 Comments

  • Spell check broken?

    Pete Tong Fri Aug 28 2015
  • Sorry, our couple of spelling errors now duly corrected… (just the minor one of orchestra…)

    oae Fri Aug 28 2015
  • fair assesment, i think you’re thoughts about giving people a taste for brahms may be a bit “glass half empty”. I’m hoping people can hear the power full instrumentation can bring to the music they love, and then will look to hear it elsewhere. Even if it means next year they try a prom on tv or live even. I’m minded of that saying “theres no such thing as bad publicity”!

    daniel Tue Sep 1 2015
  • Maybe they weren’t trying to get a Radio 1 audience into classical music? It is just as valid to get a classical audience into Radio 1. And classical music is pretty ubiquitous too, judging by the amount of performances up and down the country and the two national radio stations dedicated to it. Anyway, you wouldn’t want someone else to steal your crown as the leading ‘audience developers’ for classical, would you???!

    John Mon Sep 7 2015