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Prom 28: Ulster’s finest

August 7, 2008

It’s late. I’m back from the Royal Albert Hall, my feet throbbing and a thin layer of sweat coating all of my skin. A tepid bath awaits.

It’s been a terribly special evening at the Proms. The Ulster Orchestra were in town this evening sporting a programme which could, if I didn’t know better, have been put together especially for me.

First up was Howard Ferguson’s Overture for an Occasion and despite not knowing it all, it didn’t take long to realise this had more than a sniff of light music about it. Fabulous.

Next, a piano concerto by Charles Villiers Stanford. Soloist for the evening was Finghin Collins and boy oh boy did he looked pleased to be there. A pleasure to listen to.

Ma Vlast by Smetana kicked off the second half but it was Dvorak’s 8th symphony which took my breath away. This may have something to do with my proximity to the stage. Tonight was the first time since the first night I’d succeeded in getting a place in the third row.

It was being this close I got to see just how intently the players were experiencing their time in the hall, seeing bows raised at the same time and a leader who did exactly what his role demanded. Seeing the smiles on their faces as they played through their favourite passages cannot do anything but raise a smile on your own face too. If you’re promming be sure to try and get yourself in the third row – you won’t be disappointed.

But nicest of all was getting the chance to see a mate play in the band. I’ve known him for years and followed his career in professional music with a keen interest. I am quite a soppy fool the majority of the time and tonight I make no bones about the fact that I felt terribly proud.

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