A night at the BBC Proms is sweet music to the ears

My parents were not convinced I was listening, but I maintain it's best to appreciate good music with eyes closed.

If there's anything a teenager likes, it's a good party. It doesn't matter what sort of party it is, just going somewhere that provides throngs of people, a festive atmosphere and an excuse to dress up will do. Festivals celebrating classical music may not rank very high up on everyone's party wish list, but they can nevertheless make for a great evening out- if you're the kind who doesn't begin to drop off as soon as a violinist begins spewing out Vivaldi.

Every Underground station in London- where I was enjoying a soggy summer sojourn - has been plastered with posters advertising what is often touted as the greatest classical music festival of all time: the BBC Proms. As anyone even vaguely familiar with the festival will know, if you want to launch a glittering musical career, all you have to do is practise until your fingers or vocal cords or whatever bleed, gather all the four-leaf clovers you can find and worm your way into the Proms and the hearts of the thousands who watch them.

Although I can think of a million other ways I could be spending an evening instead of sitting watching a guy twirl a baton, I was intrigued. It's not every day you get to go to the Proms with the crème de la crème of the music world.

Of course, no classical concert is complete without a pretty evening dress and herein lay the problem, the looming obstacle that threatened to cut short any plans of ever being able to venture into the Royal Albert Hall. All I'd packed were clothes fit only for the street, and the meagre amount of pocket money I had been granted had been long spent on other clothes fit only for the street. A plea for financial intervention was met with a cold "I thought you were moving into a Primark store, you've certainly spent enough time there..." So I escaped before further emotional damage could be done. All it would take for my musical education to be furthered were some appropriate clothes and nice stilettos, and perhaps jewellery. I'd been under the impression all along that clothes and shoes were a basic human right. How quickly you learn that the world is an unfair place.

I received a very pleasant surprise, then, when I dejectedly read the Proms website. Having abandoned all hope of being allowed into a formal concert, it transpired that there was no dress code: you could come as you were. So I procured tickets for a performance of the 5th Concerto for Orchestra by Holloway, Four Last Songs by Strauss and Brahms's Symphony No 2 in D Major, by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (SSO), conducted by Donald Runnicles.

At six that evening, clad in scruffy jeans and a top worthy of someone about to savour compositions by the likes of Brahms and Strauss, I strutted into the Royal Albert Hall. The atmosphere was unlike any other concert I'd attended: people laughed and chattered away without restraint. Among the usual plethora of distinguished-looking crusty people with their noses pointing northwards were panda-eyed, pierced, tattooed youth all looking forward to an enjoyable evening of music.

It was nothing if not exciting to rub shoulders with people from all walks of life, from quirky artist-types in deliberately ill-fitting clothes to the poshest of the posh, soak in an atmosphere that's delicious for all its snootily cold aloofness among the audience - oh, and listen to some quite nice music, too.

The first glimpse of the hall when the doors open really is magnificent: it's the biggest auditorium I've seen and was draped in royal-looking crimsons and golds. I doubted the audience would be able to fill it but it was absolutely packed before Runnicles took to the podium. The music, of course, was full of emotion and the musicians responded to each other beautifully, as would be expected by the SSO.

The only cloud on an otherwise peaceful horizon was, perhaps, being frequently prodded by an indignant mother who wanted to know why I'd dragged the family to the place if I wasn't going to appreciate that infernal screeching or listen to a note they were playing.

She had me all wrong there - any seasoned musician will tell you that the best way to appreciate music is to close your eyes so your ears can concentrate. Of course I was listening, and very intently at that. Judging by the opinion my family holds on my listening and money-squandering skills, you'd think they were under the impression that the gentle sighs of contentment I emitted at regular intervals were snores.

The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai

Published: August 23, 2011 04:00 AM


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