Home Classical Music A day within the lifetime of a prommer: what it is actually prefer to queue all day and bag a spot on the ‘Holy Rail’

A day within the lifetime of a prommer: what it is actually prefer to queue all day and bag a spot on the ‘Holy Rail’

A day within the lifetime of a prommer: what it is actually prefer to queue all day and bag a spot on the ‘Holy Rail’


Some concepts are greatest saved to oneself. Such because the little gem I got here up with at this morning’s Proms Problem planning assembly.

‘Why don’t we get somebody to go alongside as a Promenader, combine it with the die-hard standers and queuers, and maintain a diary of the day?’ I pipe up. ‘, a form of Newbie’s Information to Promming.’

The editor’s reply is on the spot and gratifyingly enthusiastic: ‘Nice! Although you’ll must make it a very high-profile Promenade in case you’re to get essentially the most out of the expertise.’

His worryingly satanic grin tells me that this transition from my generic ‘somebody’ to his all-too-specific ‘you’ was no accident. He is aware of full nicely that, ever since I went to my first Promenade as a nipper within the early Eighties, I’ve at all times loved the consolation of a seat.

I’ve by no means stood, by no means queued. ‘Clearly, we’d need you to get proper to the entrance of the Area,’ he continues. ‘So that might imply attending to the Albert Corridor actually early. Do take a e-book and a cushion, as I don’t think about the pavements are too snug. After which the climate may be a contact iffy…’

Glee scarcely contained, the fee, he assures me, is all mine.

How the day unfolded


So, right here we go. Cheltenham Spa station on what appears to be like like being, contact wooden, a sunny day. To safe my front-row slot within the Area, I have to get into London as early as attainable, however a crack-of-dawn begin can also be out of the query – getting right into a Promenade for a fiver gained’t imply a lot if I’ve needed to shell out a month’s mortgage on a peak-time prepare ticket to get there. So, the 8.31am prepare it’s.

The day goes be a protracted one, although with a slightly magical musical reward on the finish of it: Mahler’s Third Symphony, carried out by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra below Sir Donald Runnicles.


Remarkably, my prepare has arrived bang on time. As I make my means throughout Hyde Park, I discover myself breaking into the occasional run. Am I actually that excited concerning the prospect of hanging round doing nothing for hours? Or simply absurdly determined to get as near the entrance of the queue as attainable?

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Past the Albert Memorial in entrance of me looms the magnificent sight of the Royal Albert Corridor. I achieve this like it. Not so eager on the more and more gray sky above it, thoughts…


And right here I’m. I’m within the queue! Or, slightly, one of many queues, plural – lining up alongside the wall to the left of the statue is the ‘Area Day Queue’ for infrequent guests to the Proms reminiscent of me, whereas throughout the way in which, to the proper of it, is the season-ticket holders’ ‘Area Season Queue’.

As British queues go, ours is decidedly higgledy-piggledy, consisting principally of a few gaggles chatting, a girl studying a e-book, one chap mendacity alongside the wall half-asleep… and that’s about it. By my estimation, in terms of making my means by means of Door 11 and into the world this night, solely seven or eight folks will probably be forward of me.

Absolutely I’ve carried out sufficient to bag a spot in opposition to the entrance rail? Within the meantime, all I’ve to do is consider methods of passing the eight hours between now and when Sir Donald raises his Mahlerian baton. And hope that wasn’t a drop of rain I simply felt…


Oh pricey. Sure that was a drop of rain. And now the skies have nicely and actually opened. Our already haphazard queue disintegrates as all of us run for shelter throughout the coated walkway of the Albert Corridor and I discover myself worrying if this implies my hard-earned place will rely for nothing.

Not a little bit of it, my fellow queuers guarantee me – when you’ve bagged your spot, honour amongst Prommers means that it’ll stay yours. They’re a pleasant bunch, I need to say, and we quickly get chatting.

Nigel, I study, was second right here at the moment, arriving from Brighton at simply after 9am – a civil servant, he’s taken a few weeks off work simply to attend Proms; Rick, a lawyer – ‘or Rod, as a number of the older Prommers know me’ – provides me the lowdown on the works that herald essentially the most early-doors punters: Dvoπáok’s New World Symphony, Ravel’s Bolero, Stravinsky’s Ceremony of Spring and Holst’s Planets; and Barbara, aged 80, has reminiscences of Promming that date again to Sir Malcolm Sargent’s heyday within the Forties, although says she has slowed down a bit not too long ago – final 12 months she managed ‘solely’ 33 Proms.

I in flip clarify who I’m and what my intention is at the moment. ‘Ah, the Holy Rail!’ I hear somebody joke, to amused chuckles. I think this pun could have made an look one or two instances earlier than.


Do you ever get the sensation your colleagues may not such as you? I’ve come at the moment with a few props – a Union Jack flag and umbrella – which I’ve been instructed by our artwork editor to make use of for images at applicable events. Comparable to the present spell of torrential-rain-cum-howling-gale, I suppose.

As I elevate flag and brolly sheepishly out of my bag, David, a schoolteacher from Bedford who arrived simply earlier than me at the moment, appears to be like at me worriedly: ‘You do know this isn’t the Final Evening, don’t you?’ Nodding glumly, I head out into the rain.

Eager to ascertain my musical credentials, I chat at some size to David, who’s a eager organist. We spend a contented half hour on the finer factors of Bach, diapasons, Widor, reed stops, swells to greats and all. I transfer the dialog enthusiastically on to one in all my pet topics: the organ works of Herbert Howells! Oh. David instantly appears eager to get away and have some lunch…

The rain stops. We enterprise again exterior.

David returns – leaving the queue for one thing to eat/a wee/to stretch one’s legs is deemed acceptable as long as one doesn’t disappear for hours on finish. He’s been buying and is brandishing a plastic bag, out of which he pulls the sheet music for Howells’s Psalm Preludes for organ. He says he intends to study them. I’m genuinely satisfied.

An enormous second. Proms stewards stroll down the queue, handing out numbered tickets that mark our official place within the line. I’m No. 10! A really distinguished quantity, I’d say – suppose Pele, Dudley Moore and Bo Derek, Churchill, Attlee and co.

Extra to the purpose, it absolutely has ‘Holy Rail’ written throughout it. After all, Nigel (2), Barbara (4), Rick/Rod (8) and David (9) are higher positioned nonetheless. We’re all glad. Convey on Mahler and Sir Donald.


For the reason that numbers pleasure, not an ideal deal has been occurring. Beginning to get a bit bored, if I’m sincere.


Nonetheless nothing. Nonetheless bored. Pavement starting the season ticket holders’ queue throughout the to really feel slightly uncomfortable, regardless of my ad hoc cushion of a folded-up Union Jack flag.


Bored, bored, bored. And uncomfortable.


Not so bored, because of an interesting chat with Rick/Rod about what to anticipate when the doorways open at 6-ish. As we enter by means of Door 11, he explains, the season ticket holders will probably be coming in by means of Door 1 on the opposite aspect of the Corridor.

Everybody stays strictly so as till you attain the sting of the Area, at which level you make like a bat out of hell for the holy rail. Working is strictly forbidden, whereas techniques reminiscent of rugby hand-offs, tripping up others, and trampling over previous girls are additionally frowned upon.


Fivers on the prepared. The stewards make their second journey alongside the road, this time to promote tickets for this night. It’s money solely, I’m happy to seek out out. Paying by bank card in some way wouldn’t appear proper


We’re getting tantalisingly shut now, and our queue has began to elongate quickly down the steps and into Prince Consort Street. Ditto the season ticket holders’ queue throughout the way in which, which I’ve been maintaining a tally of all day, and now resolve to go and say ‘hiya’ to.

The Prommers on the entrance, I rapidly discover out, are each bit as obsessed as us ‘day ticketers’ with getting as close to to the stage as attainable. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them have additionally bought to know one another very nicely certainly over time. One couple additional down the road, I’m reliably informed, met on the Proms, fell in love on the Proms and have since bought married and began their very own brood of little Prommerlets (presumably not on the Proms). How candy.


Right here we go then. These attending the pre-Proms lecture have returned, and we’re being ushered ahead in the direction of Door 11 and into the Corridor, tickets in hand.


The holy rail

Performed it! I’ve made it to the holy rail. I’m standing simply in entrance of the place the third desk of the second violins will probably be. Instantly to my left are Rick/Rod and David, and to my proper are Andrew and Paul, who inform me that they have been 18th and nineteenth within the queue. I’ve no concept what occurred to Nos 11 to 17. Misplaced in transit?


The Albert Corridor is now nearly as good as full. It’s a nice sight, particularly with the Mahler-sized orchestra and huge refrain of singers up on stage. there’s simply time for the Proms charity collectors to announce how a lot they’ve raised, earlier than Sir Don arrives on stage.


First motion down, and I’m having fun with myself immensely, even when the view’s not one of the best this shut up. The BBC SSO second violins might be the best-looking part on this planet… however I wouldn’t thoughts having the ability to see another components of the orchestra often.

I’ll take it as learn that there are brass and wind gamers behind them someplace. That stated, the sound is knockout, and the orchestra is having a blinder.


Excellent. Big symphony, enormous efficiency. As orchestra, singers and maestro take their well-deserved bows, I flip spherical and admire the spectacle of 6,000 folks applauding. I see why it should be such a thrill to carry out right here. I’m on cloud 9 myself.


As we head out of the Area, a variety of those that I’ve bought to know over the day enthusiastically ask me if I’m going to surrender the cozy seat for the holy rail in future? That’s a troublesome query. I’ll must have a give it some thought over a beer.


One remaining deal with. Suitably refreshed, I make my means again into the Albert Corridor, and head all the way in which up the steps into the perimeter Gallery for the late-evening live performance. This time, all over the place is sparsely populated – row upon row of empty seats and huge areas within the Area far beneath me. However that solely provides to the magic.

Because the Corridor’s massive areas are full of Bach organ and choral music, I roll out that Union Jack, lie again and wallow within the ambiance of all of it. Superb. So, I ponder to myself, what’s the easiest way to take pleasure in a Promenade? Sitting, standing or mendacity down? I can’t say. I’d gladly advocate all three.



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