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Review: Last Night of the Proms

Music

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Last Night of the Proms is a popular but curious offering, based on London’s enduring original performances. It includes a pub singalong shifted to a grand scale – with Union Jack flags and a torrent of balloons.

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The Proms weaves very recognisable and patriotic classics with light entertainment, its second half mostly celebrating British sentiment and overt notions of Empire. You get all this plus conductor/host Guy Noble at his humorous best, and more.

Dvorak’s “Carnival” Overture Op. 92 was a lively choice to open, followed by a lovely rendition of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest”. Soprano Lorina Gore was fine in several roles, including for “Love is Where You Find It”, a sweet song from a flop movie, The Kissing Bandit. She featured again, and in costume, for a medley of (wait for it) songs from Mary Poppins that elicited a lot of audience participation.

The combined voices of the Elder Conservatorium Chorale and the Graduate Singers made a powerful chorus in various pieces, especially as nationalism was ramped up for “Rule, Britannia” (with Gore in a sequined Union Jack dress), Elgar’s “Jerusalem”, and the last-listed piece, Elgar’s other work on the program, “Pomp and Circumstance”. Audience singing was encouraged and they delivered with enthusiasm.

The end? Not quite. A reprise of “Pomp” was a prelude to an alternative version of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”, with Guy Noble reciting lyrics that spared no politician. Then it was “Waltzing Matilda” and a shower of streamers plus red, white and blue balloons for the packed Festival Centre.

The music of The Proms was presented with an effective mixture of wit and musical talent, not taking itself too seriously.

I am constantly impressed by the versatility and technical excellence of the ASO, and by the programming of its performances. One has to wonder, however, about the anachronistic nature of The Proms in Australia, especially at a time of keen debate about our own history and treatment of its indigenous people.

Last Night of the Proms was presented at the Festival Theatre on Friday and Saturday. Upcoming ASO performances include the Master Series concert Idyllic Visions (with pianist Stephen Hough) on September 6 and 7 at the Town Hall and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert on September 14 at the AEC.

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