Sian is the Bristol Old Vic Young Company Producer and classical music newbie.
There was a real buzz around Daniel Hope at Bristol Proms this year, several colleagues had told me he was the one to watch and to prepare to have my mind blown- his rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was the talk of last year. Well, they certainly weren’t wrong- Daniel Hope is basically the rockstar of the Baroque music world- a BaROCK star maybe (sorry…) He is an instantly likeable and accessible performer with an incredible stage presence and, joined by his hugely talented band, he promised to take us on a journey of Baroque leading up to 1766, the year that Bristol Old Vic was opened. I don’t profess to know exactly what Baroque was before this gig, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried- I knew exactly, I just had to hear it.
The standing pit was the fullest I have ever seen it, packed with excited audience members completely engaged and enthralled by what was happening on the stage. I guess, somewhat narrow mindedly, I kind of expected the audience to be made up of classic music aficionados of a certain age, resplendent in their suits and evening gowns. Well, I was totally wrong- Daniel Hope attracted an incredibly varied and mixed crowd of all ages, shapes and sizes and managed to appeal to everyone- I saw some very happy faces on the more traditional classical audience members but equally there were whoops of delight from a more diverse and mixed crowd. The troupe entered through the audience, as the lights went down we heard the distant banging of a drum and the unmistakeable notes of a violin- and the musicians appeared from various parts of the auditorium and walked past us on their route to the stage- the audiences faces lit up and the excitement in the air was palpable.
They played a beautiful range of music- a favourite of mine definitely being Falconieri’s ‘La Suave Melodia’, translated to mean ‘A Suave Melody’. It was at this point that I felt like I’d definitely learnt something from my proms experience- I’d never heard this piece of music before but the ditty gave off a story, it oozed suaveness, the story of a playboy musician making his way around the world with women falling at his feet- I was picking up the exact storyline that the composer and musician wanted me to hear! Success! It did help that Daniel gave us a little bit of information about each song before he played it, so we knew what to listen for. Another highlight for me was his wonderful rendition of Greensleeves, as Daniel himself said- a huge jump from the tune we are more akin to hearing in a lift or a shopping centre!
Daniel is, of course, fantastic and the perfect showman but a special mention goes to his incredible band. He has assembled a group of some of the most talented musicians I have ever seen from all across the world- Japan, Greece, Italy and Germany were all represented. I have never heard a Harpsichord live before but the beautiful looking, brightly painted instrument took pride of place centre stage and was played with such calmness and skill- the stunning, almost jangly sound was perfect in the acoustics of the auditorium. Daniel’s percussionist, in particular, was the ultimate showman- encouraging the audience into fits of laughter with his stage presence and performance and bringing personality to a tambourine that had us all roaring and their addition of some Bristol Old Vic relics (a wind and rain machine) were a lovely touch and nod to the history of the building. Whilst there was this nod to the past, there was also a hint of the current, as Daniel performed the final half of the concert wearing a ‘Google Glass’- I’m looking forward to seeing some of the images and video he captured of the crowd and the event from his perspective.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, this is my first proms and my first foray into classical music and this concert was everything I had hoped it would be and more- I recognised some of the pieces, I learnt and enjoyed some new work and I found myself swaying, tapping and nodding along with the infectious and beautiful music. I’m still thinking about the music this morning and smiling- and that’s got to be a very good sign, right?