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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Event Review: Prom 41 - Sherlock Holmes: A Musical Mind

Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. After all, he is the most famous detective of all time. But do you know the music behind the mastermind? That’s what this year’s Prom 41 set out to uncover.

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The Prom advertised a solid mix of scores from the various TV and film adaptations over the years, alongside a wider variety of Holmesian music. And that mix was certainly delivered on the day. The scores, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, were interspersed with other relevant musical performances. These included everything from 16th century Dutch church music to French operas, so it turned out to be a very varied programme!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
In between the music, we were treated to brief narration on the performances and their relation to the great detective by BBC Radio 3’s Matthew Sweet and Mark Gatiss, the current incarnation of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. While I’m sure this was all well-meaning (there was always going to be some exposition because it was billed as a ‘family’ Prom) I did think it started to detract from the music which, after all, was the whole point. Plus it was obvious Gatiss was only there as a celebrity to help draw crowds, which judging by the array of fans in deerstalkers and ‘I am Sherlocked’ T-shirts, clearly worked.

The crowd wasn’t all teenage fangirls though. Actually it was very varied, with people of all different nationalities and ages. This just proves how much of a global appeal the Sherlock brand has. Sure, a lot of younger people were there due to the current BBC incarnation. But there were also plenty of people who had come to celebrate past Sherlocks too. When Mark Gatiss was introduced I overheard one middle-aged woman whisper to her husband, “Who’s he supposed to be?”

The staging for this Prom was pretty simple, with the orchestra took centre stage and pride of place, as rightly they should. The backdrop was nothing more than old film posters and visual stills, nothing ostentatious to distract the audience.

Unsurprisingly, the music was of a very high standard. Mezzo-soprano Christine Rice came on to perform two songs, playing the part of Sherlock’s nemesis, Irene Adler. She sang ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville followed by ‘Ah, Tanya, Tanya’ from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, both to rapturous applause.

The other guest appearance was from violinist Jack Liebeck, who came on to perform several songs with the orchestra. One of the songs he performed was Paganini’s Violin Concerto 2 – ‘La campanella’ – which was easily one of the highlights of the night.

Another highlight was the penultimate performance of one of the most famous pieces of classical music, Wagner’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’. It was great to hear a classical piece that everyone knows performed by a full orchestra in something.

The Prom finished, predictably and much to the delight of the fangirl contingent, with a suite of music from the current BBC TV series Sherlock. Mostly upbeat, often off-kilter and instantly recognisable, it was the perfect end to the afternoon’s performance.

Did you go to see Prom 41? Are you a fan of Sherlock? Let me know in the comments below!

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