Audience stars in Britain's Last Night of Proms

Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:51pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese piano superstar Lang Lang wowed them, Wagnerian soprano Susan Bullock got a laugh as a "British Brunnhilde," but the stars of the Last Night of the BBC Proms were standing in the middle of the Royal Albert Hall.

The 700 or so "Prommers" who pay 5 pounds ($8) each for standing room in the cavernous, sold-out 5,000-seat oval hall on Saturday night gave almost as good a show as they got from the soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner and the 140-strong BBC Symphony Chorus.

Sporting everything from British Union Jack vests to horned Viking helmets, and armed with a formidable array of noisemakers, flags and spluttering balloons launched in a valiant but vain attempt to reach to the hall's vertiginous ceiling, the Prommers kept up their side of the bargain for a high-spirited celebration of the end of the Proms season.

They cheered the stagehands and the musicians tuning up, and generally set the tone for an event on the musical calendar as important for some as the Wagner festival in Bayreuth or Vienna's New Year's Concert.

Nor is it just for natives or anglophiles.

Anne Bucht said she'd flown to London on short notice, and at considerable expense, from her home in Malmo, Sweden, after her daughter Amelie, married to an Englishman, called to say she'd got two tickets at the last minute.

"I waited for it for 20 years," said Bucht, who usually watches the concert on Swedish television to revel in "the joy of everyone," and because Sweden has nothing like it.

Gardner, whose podium was mischievously bedecked with coloured streamers and big, white "L" signs that learner drivers display on their cars, paid special tribute to the Prommers, some of whom queued for as long as 10 hours to buy a ticket entitling them to stand for a concert lasting at least three hours more.   Continued...