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Proms 2009: Prom 70 – Fiddler on the Shore \ Peter Maxwell Davies \ Daniel Hope \ Sibelius 5 \ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

September 9, 2009

There was a distinct whiff of mould in the area where I was sitting. I was fairly certain it wasn’t the widow sat next to me, nor the man in a Harris Tweed to my left. Every now and again I got a strong blast of the smell. It didn’t go down well.

This however was nothing in comparison to the glares flashed in my direction from the front row of the arena at the beginning of the second half.

Seconds after spindly conductor Garry Walker had swept purposefully onto stage, bowed and raised his baton so the unmistakable sound of a twinkling mobile phone rang out from somewhere in the row behind me. Some of the prommers were clearly unable to pinpoint exactly who the culprit was hence why I was hyper-aware of the need to keep my hands by my side. Making any gestures which might indicate it was my mobile phone going off was crucial.

If it had been my mobile phone going off I would, of course, have been embarrassed. The chances are I probably would have made more of a concerted to switch the device off rather than merely gesturing to do so. At least that way I would have avoided it going off a second time. Given the proximity of the musicians it would have been the least I could do. Unfortunately, the owner of the phone twinkling loudly next to the principal double bassist in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra seemed unable to switch it off.

She surely couldn’t have failed to take notice of some of the prommers’ heads slowly turning in her direction. Most displayed momentary disbelief before returning to the focus of their attention on stage. Two, however, saw this otherwise forgivable incident as a cue to shake their heads and mouth their displeasure at having their enjoyment of the performance interrupted. Such opportunities for disdain are not to be missed, it seems, especially in a public forum.

I felt rather sorry. I didn’t know the lady but it did rather feel the reaction of the prommers‘ in question seemed distinctly more unpalatable than the mobile phone going off in the first place.

Who in their right mind would purposefully switch their mobile phone on loud for the beginning of a live concert? What were the odds of someone ringing just at that very moment? Look how close to the stage we were in that position. That phone going off was a mistake. It must have been. To cast disapproving looks towards the culprit seemed unnecessarily judgemental, even by my standards.

I turned to the reassure the lady at the end of the symphony but was surprised to discover she had already left her seat and could now be seen looking over the rail in the direction of the conductor’s walk to the stage door. Was she apologising to the conductor? Whilst the rest of the auditorium appeared to be heartily applauding the band, this seemed to be the most likely explanation. Soon after that the lady in question had left the auditorium.

I caught sight of her outside the Royal Albert Hall on my way to Door 1 to meet some friends. She stood in a tight group, all eyes looking down at the handful of mobile phones in her. She was talking to the ticket touts I seen selling last minute tickets for Prom 70 pre-concert. I’m sure I heard her say to one of them, “I couldn’t make this one work.”

“Really don’t worry about your phone going off,” I gestured, thinking almost immediately that there was every likelihood my words didn’t sound as sincere as they were meant. The men surrounding her laughed as she looked on at me confused. “It happens from time to time.Really, don’t worry.”

She looked at me even more confused.

“Your phone .. “ I pointed at the devices she had in her hand, “it rang during the concert.”

She was definitely the same woman. I recognised the pink hairclip she had in her grey hair. I know it was the same person. I know.

The lady looked back at the touts, smiled and said to me, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

Listen to reaction post Peter Maxwell Davies’ UK premiere of Fiddler on the Shore.

Listen to Sibelius 5 from last night’s Prom concert (including the ringtone at the beginning). Peter Maxwell Davies’ concerto is available here.

One Comment
  1. Chris permalink

    Your mobile phone exchange sounds a tad on the excruciating side!

    They really have the power to destroy a theatrical/musical event. We saw a play locally a couple of months ago – very arty layout, just two rows of seats in a big semi circle in the auditorium, probably seated no more than 100 people.

    During the play a woman’s phone goes off. The cast struggle manfully on. Lots of rustling of bags, swishing of fabric, zizzing of zips as the woman tries to find the phone. She ends up running out of the auditorium with the phone still ringing, partially invading the “theatrical space” as she does. She then stands in the corridor outside and has a quick phone conversation which was almost as loud as if she’d remained in her seat.

    She bustles back inside. Three minutes later it goes off again! She hadn’t even turned the sodding thing off!!! So selfish!

    That’s one of the reasons I hate phones.

    Peter Maxwell Davies – marvellous. That’s all that needs to be said.

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