Urban Classic Prom 2013 at the Royal Albert Hall
For almost a century, the BBC Proms have been an undisputed highlight for classical music fans and, as Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton-Hill emphasised last night, they have always held an “open-eared, open-minded curiosity for contemporary music”. In this vein, Prom 37 marked an historic moment with the Royal Albert Hall playing host to a “riotous fusion” of urban and classical music for the first time ever.
It is no mean feat for any performer to collaborate with the formidable 90-piece BBC Symphony Orchestra, but the entire line-up, including Fazer’s selection of new young artists aka 7 Chapters, was phenomenal.
Classically trained Laura Mvula, alongside Maverick Sabre and Jacob Banks’ silky smooth soul, naturally lend themselves to orchestration, but the atypical “backing band” was the true star of the night. Led intuitively by conductor Jules Buckley, the orchestra enhanced otherwise synthetically produced songs to create triumphant and cinematic music, much to the urban artists’ delight.
While Mvula’s sumptuous vocals on Sing to the Moon and Father, Father stood out in the first half, somewhat surprisingly (although there’s no disputing her talent within the rap scene), Lady Leshurr stole the show. Her incredible flow and ability to spit might have left older members of the audience a little puzzled, but her impressive energy and playful attempts to engage with the crowd elevated her above the performances of her contemporaries.
In the normally restrained environment of the Royal Albert Hall, members of the public were initially hesitant to submit to Fazer and Wretch32’s demands to “bounce,” but by the second half the entire hall was on its feet.
The Urban Classic Prom has made both genres more accessible and appealing to different generations, but more importantly its success lies in the fact that it demonstrates that contemporary classical music should not be ignored.
Buckley’s classical choices for the night, Alexander Mosolov’s The Iron Foundry and Hans Werner Henze’s Dance of the Maenads, were both filled with urgency – a frenetic combination of strings, piercing woodwind and ominous brass. Although rather discordant as act openers, they served as proof of just how powerful a full orchestra can be.
Daring and different, this show is what contemporary music should be about. It’s fantastic to think that the BBC Three audience has now discovered this long-time summer tradition and one can only hope that this is the first of many (as Buckley puts it) orchestral skank occasions.
For further information and future events visit the BBC Proms’ website here.
Watch Lady Leshurr’s video for Blazin’ here: