#BRISTOLPROMS Day 6 – Prombassadors: Guy Withers

Guy Withers

Guy Withers

Guy Withers
@guyswithers
Guy is an experienced tenor and theatre maker from Bristol.

Bristol Proms Final Day & Round-Up

The Bristol Proms came to a close on Saturday 2nd August with a very exciting programme of theatrical based events, most notably Dido & Aeneas and intriguing fringe theatre piece Mimic. Jon James finished the week with his final talk on Purcell’s opera, and Wren Music held a workshop and performance for young people to explore acoustic and a cappella music.

Workshop Showcase

Workshop Showcase

First of the day was the showcase held by Wren Music, displaying work the young people involved in the day’s workshop had prepared. It is a fantastic idea to diversify the events put on at Bristol Proms, and an event of this type not only associates the festival with outreach but also does a incredible job in introducing young people to creating and performing music. It reminded me quite vividly of my time as a boy singing with a cappella groups and choirs, an education in music my school did not provide and that has lead to me studying music at university and forging a career in music and theatre. It was an enjoyable event, and I hope to see more young artist and outreach events being programmed for Bristol Proms in the future.

I have already through my blogs celebrated Jon James on his work with Bristol Proms in his educational and engaging music talks. His final talk of the week was centred around Purcell’s operatic masterpiece Dido & Aeneas, to be performed later that night. More than just guiding us through the music and biography of a man, Jon James expertly whipped up huge enthusiasm for Purcell’s great skill as a composer for voice and for the stage. If Bristol Proms’ sole aim is to bring music to new audiences and young people in particular, Jon James’ talks have been perfect in delivering that, all week. I ask anyone who has an opportunity to see Jon James talk to do so.

Jon James talks Dido and Aeneas

Jon James talks Dido and Aeneas

Mimic was one of the stand out events of the week. Quite different from a large majority of performances at Bristol Proms, Mimic is a one man theatre piece accompanied with piano playing throughout. A great example of how detailed music leitmotif and underscoring can lift a production and carry an audience through an hour long narrative. I was captivated. Raymond Scannell held the audience perfectly with his dynamic performance, his impressions and nuanced character work was a marvel to watch. Another Bristol Proms treat.

The stage is set for Ray Scannell's Mimic

The stage is set for Ray Scannell’s Mimic

The final performance of Bristol Proms was the sole operatic event of the festival; Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas. The Bristol Old Vic auditorium, it feels, is made for opera, and I was so glad to see some performed at the festival. With a stellar cast, including The Erebus Ensemble taking small roles and providing the chorus, there was no doubt that the production would be a success. The first half of the evening was an opportunity to introduce the audience, through songs and anecdotes, to Purcell’s diverse musical output in preparation for his masterwork in the second half. This translated very well and created a fun loving and relaxed atmosphere within the space. Dido & Aeneas is one of my favourite operas, and Bristol Proms did not disappoint. Standout performances came from the bullish Aeneas and Belinda, who in particular had a glistening voice and fabulous technique. The use of candles to dimly light the stage, and for flame to create a shadowed backdrop, very effectively fitted with the simple but emotive vision for the direction and production. A truly wonderful final night and a one to remember.

Lit by candlelight, the final night performance of Dido and Aeneas

Lit by candlelight, the final night performance of Dido and Aeneas

I have very much enjoyed this week seeing every single Bristol Proms performance and almost living in the beautiful theatre that is the Bristol Old Vic. I hope the festival continues to try new and sometimes very crazy ideas, and particularly showcases young talent. Next year, if I’m not prombassador-ing again, I will drag every person, young and old, to as many events as I can; not just for the music but the welcoming atmosphere of the Bristol Old Vic and its staff.

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