Friday, August 19, 2011

Moshing at the RAH!

Proms, people. It is Prom season, and on Monday evening I stood outside the Royal Albert Hall in rain that couldn't decide if it was rain or not and queued for tickets to Swan Lake. I probably should have arrived earlier, because the queue was rather long, but it shortened much faster than I'd feared (unlike the awful ten people-forty minute queue in the bank at lunchtime) and I was able to get in.

You can prebook seated tickets to Proms, but they have at least 500 standing tickets available on the day for 5 pounds each if you queue. I queued for the Arena (henceforth the mosh pit) and entered a side door, passed through numbers of small warren-like corridors and into the mosh pit itself. Okay, okay, I'll call it the Arena. It is the Royal Albert Hall, after all.

And the Royal Albert Hall is huge. Even today, when we're used to gigantic ceilings and huge indoor spaces, it's impressive. In Victorian times it would have been absolutely incredible.

There's the arena itself, and then stalls surrounding it. Above that are tiers of boxes (sort of) set close to the walls, with seats three or four deep. There are three levels of those, and then a more traditional gallery above that. And then above that is yet another layer, where you lean on the rails and look down. The space yawns above you right up to the domed roof, and everywhere you look are touches of red and gold. At one point I noticed an audience member standing right in front of the organ, behind the orchestra, and it took me a few moments to realise it was actually a bust of Prince Albert. The forgotten glasses strike again. The Hall holds 6000 people, and the concert was sold out.

I didn't realise until halfway through that it wasn't just determination that was keeping people standing - you weren't allowed to sit down on the floor if you had standing tickets. I managed to get all the way to the end despite my two inch heels (my amazing red boots again. Comfortable, but not that comfortable), which was more than some people did - quite a few of the standing crowd left at intermission.

I'd actually thought the intermission was the end, because people were moving and saying 'that's it' and discussing going home, and was disappointed beause the end seemed quite abrupt. At the door I realised it was only half time due to the ushers scanning peoples' tickets 'for re-entry', so I bought an overpriced icecream (Haagen Dazs) and wandered through the halls. The halls are bigger around the main seating areas, but I still wouldn't like to have to evacuate.

The second half was definitely worth the sore feet. The orchestra was very good, and the conductor kept having to return to the stage because of the applause. He came back seven times in all, and the Hall rang to the sound of clapping and stamping feet (it's amazing how much better sore feet feel after stamping).

I'm planning to go again in a few weeks to hear Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (if you don't know which one that is, look it up on Youube). The prebook tickets are already sold out, so I hope the queues won't be too bad to get in....

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