I’ve always wanted to go promming but having lived previously on the Isle of Wight and in York I was never really close enough for going to be very convenient. But now I only live about 40 minutes away and I rallied my friend Natasha to accompany me to the War Horse Prom on Sunday afternoon.
We queued from about 1.15 and were just near the top of the steps but were told there was a reduced capacity in the arena (which we later discovered was due to a fenced off area and various props including Joey the horse emerging through us) so were a bit nervous about getting in… It got very tense as we neared the box office and then Natasha and I were the last but three people in so we could barely have timed it better!
The prom started with a wonderful arrangement of Sankey’s Only Remembered, which features in the actual stage show War Horse and was sung beautifully by Tim van Eyken and the Military Wives Choir, who stunned the auditorium by appearing in the gallery and letting their sound waft down. This song was reprised in a more stoic arrangement to close the concert, as it does in the show, and it was just as special then.
Merging seamlessly, as every piece did in an example of true craft, Frank Bridge’s Summer came next with acting both hilarious and poignant representing the summer that everyone had to grow up very quickly alongside descriptive orchestral episodes.
After Gareth Malone, who appeared on a stepladder in the arena to face the military wives who had recently filed onto stage, indicated to all that it may be wise to block their eyes, a huge cannon explosion of confetti added to the auditory symbolism of the afternoon.
He then led the choir in Holst’s Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead and Ave Maria, sandwiched by Elgar’s Two Partsongs, Op. 26 – The Snow featuring full orchestra. All three were very special, with a solid three minute flurry of fake snow flying down into the arena accompanying the latter, adding to the atmosphere even more.
The War Horse Suite was of course magical, with music spanning the different emotions of the story. Michael Morpugo was, thrillingly, acting as Joey the horse’s owner and the suite retained all the magic of the young and old horse plus geese puppets from the show.
A Turkish ballad sung by Eser Ebcin was an interesting change of pace and transitioned well into excerpts from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, which showcased some of the brave women of the war.
Hearing baritone Duncan Rock sing in German in selections from Paul Von Klenau’s Die Wise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke creates a change of pace with his deep voice carrying powerfully through the hall, and prom founder Henry Wood’s New War Hymn was immensely powerful, especially with a new orchestration that starts with a full ensemble and audience singing and diminishes to muted strings and the military wives.
Adrian Sutton’s commissioned Some See Us, sung by the 14-18-year-old boys of the Cambiata North West was also extremely powerful, especially seeing boys that young wearing uniforms representing the boys that really were lost.
Finally, the encore of It’s A Long Way To Tipperary led by Gareth Malone on banjo and ending with everyone joining in was an excellent way to finish such a well thought out and carefully considered concert. The level of applause at the end really did it justice; it was as if the lack of applause throughout made it all the more essential for the audience to show its appreciation.
I can’t think of a better way I could have spent my first prom; the atmosphere in the arena in particular was fantastic and being so close to all these wonderful music-makers, actors and authors (Mr Morpugo, I’m looking at you!) was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.