Rather unexpectedly, I found myself at the ‘Proms in the Park’ event at Hyde Park in London on Saturday evening. This is the Radio 2 version of the Last Night of the Proms – there’s a video link-up for the songs at the end, but otherwise a quite separate programme including Westlife, Russell Watson and Rolf Harris (who sang his version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, I’m pleased to say). The event in the park boasts a much bigger attendance – the hall can hold about 6,000 when full, while the enclosure at the park had over 30,000 in it, apparently.
What was interesting was the choice of flags being flown. There was quite a range; a smattering of Scottish saltires, Welsh dragons and Irish tricolours, at least three Lions of Flanders, plus one Australian aboriginal flag and one Devon county flag. Unsurprisingly, the Union flag dominated, but there were also a lot of St George’s crosses, far more than there would have been a decade ago. My informal estimate – confirmed by one of my companions – was that the ratio was about 3:1. Intriguing, especially as much of the singing is about Britain (‘Britons never being slaves’ and so forth) rather than England, if less scientific than a survey putting the ‘Moreno-Rose’ question.
My Edinburgh colleague Wilfried Swenden gave a fascinating presentation at a seminar there this week about the position Belgium presently finds itself in. He’s kindly agreed to let me post the Powerpoint slides from his talk, which are HERE.
A quick refresher, first. Since 1993, Belgium has had a curious federal system, in which there are three regional governments with ‘territorial’ based functions like environmental or transport services: Flanders, the Walloon Region, and Brussels. It also has three community governments, providing services which are connected to the language one speaks, such as education or health: these are the French, Dutch and German speaking communities. The Flemish region and Dutch-speaking community are merged, so they share a single parliament Continue reading
Last night I went to a splendid concert of Purcell at Westminster Abbey – the church with which he was associated for much of his life (he lived just around the corner, too). The highlight – taken slowly for the reverberant Abbey acoustic – was the 1692 St Cecilia Ode, ‘Hail Bright Cecilia’, reputedly the first time an English (or British) composer wrote for full baroque orchestra. There was something very special about hearing Purcell’s music in a place where he worked so much, and by the successors of a group of musicians (the Abbey Choir) of which he was once a member. There are details here.
This is Purcell weekend on Radio 3, marking the 350th anniversary of his death; Sunday, 22 November, is also St Cecilia’s Day. The concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 at 6.30 pm on Sunday evening, and will then be available for a week through the ‘Listen Again’ facility. It’s strongly recommended.