I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.

The Proms

“Hey, Mom, wanna go to the Proms with me?” Elliot asked quite seriously.

“I’d love to,” I said, thrilled at the prospect.  It’s not everyday that high school senior asks his mother to the Proms.

Proms-albert-hall-04You’re probably thinking he was asking me to a high school dance.  Not at all. The prom was enough of a nightmare when I was in high school that I would never want to revisit that. No, he was talking about a series of concerts in London, many at Royal Albert Hall.  And, oh, how I would love to go hear just one, the Last Night at the Proms.

How did this desire come to be?  It all began in high school.  I played in my high school band for years.  The traditional song played at a high school graduation is, I’m sorry to say, this God-awful piece called “Pomp and Circumstance.”  When played at a high school graduation, it’s like being trapped in a bad scene from Groundhog Day.  In an almost dirge-like tempo, the band plays this little march, or segment of a march.  And the gowned teens walk in with no solemnity because they don’t even hear the coronach that’s being played badly by their high school band. But the members of the high school band will have nightmares about the drone that they played over and over and over.

“Pomp and Circumstance” showed up on my MP3 player about a year ago when I downloaded an album called “The 99 Most Essential Classical Pieces in Movies.”  Five minutes and 45 seconds worth of “Pomp and Circumstance.”  I vowed never to listen to it, and seriously meant to delete it.  Then, a funny thing happened, I was riding in the car, listening to classical music, on shuffle.  As I was enjoying some of the most beautiful music in the world, the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” came on.  I snatched up my player to forward to the next song and noticed that I was about 2 minutes into “Pomp and Circumstance.”  I was more than a little confused.  What was that music that had preceded this?  Then, the song changed again, into the joyful, thrilling notes I had previously heard.

“Pomp and Circumstance,” it turns out, is a beautiful piece of music written by Edward Elgar.  Also called “Land of Hope and Glory,” it even has lyrics.  A quick YouTube search revealed that this is a traditional song played on The Last Night of the Proms.  Ah, the education I was getting based on one little piece of music.

Elliot happened to come in the kitchen when I was listening to “Land of Hope and Glory” for the umpteenth time.  (One would never know that I once hated this song.)  He watched the YouTube video with me and then asked me on the previously mentioned date.

Watch the video yourself.  You may find yourself wanting to go to the Proms, too.  At the very least, you’ll be humming “Pomp and Circumstance” for the rest of the day.


5 comments on “The Proms

  1. Judy Guion
    February 9, 2013

    Who wooda’ thought!!! Thank you for sharing that stirring piece of music with us. I will never listen to it in the same way again.

  2. catterel
    February 9, 2013

    As a Brit, I was horrified to read how Pomp and Circumstance has been so degraded across the Pond 🙂 In the UK, it is one of our unofficial national anthems (along with Rule Britannia) and in spite of its imperialistic lyrics (which appear very ironic nowadays) is always sung with great gusto. Oh yes, if you can get tickets for the last Night of the Proms (it HAS to be capitalised!) don’t miss the opportunity – be prepared to bounce up and down a lot! It’s always more or less the same musical items (the organisers wold be lynched if they didn’t include all the old favourites) concluding with “Land of Hope and Glory”. In 2012, the occasion was extra-special and patriotic: it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic Games were about to start, and it was the Conductor’s swan song. I’m so glad you have been “educated” and Elliot is also now a fan!

    • sarahlangdon
      February 10, 2013

      I was hoping you would comment on this post, Catherine, since you’re a Brit and all. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever get to London to hear the any of the Proms, let alone the Last Night — but it’s nice to dream a little. It looks like such a fun time.

      • catterel
        February 10, 2013

        Actually, Sarah, if you watch the BBC TV transmission of it, it’s almost as good as being there!

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