The Proms

Monday, August 27, 2012

A willingness to stand through 3 hours of art is something I first witnessed at Shakespeare’s Globe when my ever-indulging German buddy and I went to see Henry V a few months ago. It didn’t matter that we walked into the play having no idea what it was about, or that our £5 groundling tickets meant we had to stand up for Shakespeare. After seeing the incredible interpretation and delivery of this play we’d never studied in school, I decided I’d stand for Shakespeare any day.

London truly succeeds at bringing high quality, priceless art to an attainable level through their free museums, inexpensive tickets to theatre, and The Proms. Yep, prom.

The Proms began in 1895, when Robert Newman decided that the general public deserved concerts too, so he started a concert series with cheap ticket prices and a more informal setting. He was quoted as saying,

I am going to run nightly concerts and train the public by easy stages. Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music. (Ivan Hewett, Telegraph, 12 July 2007)

Thanks for training us, Robert. The Proms have now morphed into the BBC Proms, an almost 2 month series of daily concerts that are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. People stand in line for hours to get standing tickets (called Promming) for concerts featuring their favourite composers, orchestras, conductors, you name it. There’s just something wonderful about seeing people stand in line for classical music, and the nightly concerts facilitate such a camaraderie between the concert-goers. We even overheard one man asking another, “Were you here last night for…?” Happy heart.

Line outside of Royal Albert Hall for Britten’s Peter Grimes

The night we attended, the performance was of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, a dark English opera about a fisherman accused of murdering his apprentice. I can’t imagine the excitement of quickly preparing an entire opera for a one-night only performance, but we could see the physical relief of everyone involved during the final curtain call. The audience seemed to clap for ages, praising the artists for their successful rendition of this difficult work. It was beautiful to see such passion shared with a packed audience who truly appreciated the music.

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It’s Still There

Monday, August 20, 2012

Inscription at the top of Primrose Hill

On top of Primrose Hill there’s an inscription by William Blake, “I have conversed with the Spiritual Sun–I saw him on Primrose Hill.” Conversing with the spiritual sun was basically the motto this weekend as London granted us some oh-so-rare sunny days.

With only a few weeks left in London, I think we’re all starting to panic. Not just because presentations and hand-in deadlines are fast approaching, but because we’re realising all the London we’d like to pack in to our final days. London seems to be encouraging our city-binging with summatime weather.

Saturday morning began with a breakfast picnic on Primrose Hill, a part of Regent’s Park with a stunning view of London. The story goes that Winston Churchill went to Primrose Hill in 1940 when Germany began bombing London, addressing Parliament later that day saying, “Take a walk up Primrose Hill, and look over London. It’s still there.”

View of London from Primrose Hill

We then quickly made it over to the Clockmaker’s Museum in Guildhall, just in time for noon when all the clocks began to chime. The Clockmaker’s Museum is one of those rare finds in a city of absolutely countless cultural excursions. The faint ticking of clocks and the clean lines of glass cases full of history…so calming.

Guildhall

Saturday ended with a trip to Spitalfields Market and drinks in Clapham, but the weekend was no where near complete.

It was essential we pay tribute to the pub where we spent so many nights laughing, drinking pints, and playing cards, so we spent the afternoon at the Royal Albert having Sunday roast. We had joked that we would go for roast in the afternoon and stay until closing, and we inadvertently almost made it to the closing bell. The only thing that pulled us away was the thought of pizza in the park, which was a perfect ending to a full weekend.

Sunset views of Goldsmiths

I’m very much obliged that I’ll be leaving the city having fallen in love with London all over again these past few weeks. With Olympic fever, the sunshine, and continually discovering the secret wonders of this place, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine saying goodbye.

Some Really Awesome Ladies Lifting Some Really Heavy Stuff

Monday, August 6, 2012

It took a whole lot of convincing to get me to attend the Olympics this weekend. In the months leading up to the games, every time I spoke to Dad, he asked me if I’d purchased a ticket yet. I was resisting I think for a few reasons, 1) Obviously I’m a pretend real-life Londoner so I have to find the entirety of the Olympics utterly obnoxious, 2) I really wasn’t interested in braving the crowds, and 3) I didn’t actually believe there were any tickets left that didn’t cost a deposit and my first-born child.

When I went back to the States last month, my parents finally convinced me that it was a once in a lifetime experience and I should stop complaining, pick any event, and go. Fine.

I began to actually get excited when I realised there were still tickets left for the women’s +75kg weightlifting. Now, I know my interest in women’s weightlifting has been heavily concealed for the past 23 years, but it’s out in the open now. The real reason it was so exciting, was that I’d get to support Holley Mangold, a Dayton native who has been on the Reveal family radar for a few reasons. She was well-known in Dayton as one of the few girls who played football on the offensive line, her brother, Nick Mangold, plays for the New York Jets who we often watch play against our beloved Bengals, and her sister attended Agnes Scott College, graduating the year before I did. Exciting stuff.

So, my day yesterday consisted of lots of cheering for Holley and Sarah Robles (the other lifter from the USA) and continually being thankful that my parents didn’t let me miss such an opportunity. I’ve heard others say this, and now I’m sure its true, but at the Olympics, no matter what sport you’re watching or who you’re supporting, you can’t help but be caught up in the spirit of it all. I went into the event only having done minimal research on the sport, but they lead us through it and by the end I could keep up with the most diehard of fans.

What’s more incredible though than the ever-supportive crowd, was the discipline and humility of the lifters. My heart broke when they missed a lift and there were definitely some watering eyes when they’d succeed. These women dedicate everything to their sport, to their bodies, their mindset, their countries…so admirable. Since I’m not an athlete, sometimes it’s hard for me to relate to this extreme dedication to something so physical, outward displays of strength or speed or stamina, but I know when I finally discover that one thing I can’t live without, it will feel like thousands are cheering.