Saturday, August 16, 2014

Friday Marina, Notting Hill and our "First Night at the Proms"

I am finally into some sort of journalling rythm (I think!) and am sitting with Evernote on Elaine's iPad making a record of yesterday!! Friday was a "real" day!! We started by walking to the RAH (Royal Albert Hall) to pick up our tickets for the weekend and next week as, in case you didn't know, the BBC Proms are a specific focus of this visit to London ... that's is why we are staying up here in Kensington with all the rich people, it is only a short walk! We had a long and interesting chat with Stephanie, an old-timer who was queing from 9 am (she reminded us of Bob in NYC in 2010). We were initiated into some of the secret queueing tips for Prom goers (of which more later) and enjoyed meeting our first truly eccectric Britisher!

A short walk across the edge of Kensington Park brought us to the Serpentine Gallery for "512 Hours", a work by Marina Abramovic which we were really keen to "see" (aka "participate in"). We were lucky enough to see her work at MOMA in 2010 and Matt had introduced her work to us over the years. This was much more intimate and very interesting to be part of. We were part of the first group of the day and to be standing in the line with only about twenty other people when Marina came to the door and welcomed us. We chatted briefly with her as we entered and she recalled meeting Matt at Watermill and described him as "hard core"!
The work is described in lots of other places but is sort of "Mindfulness in a group". About 100 people are in a couple of large spaces with ear-muff headphones and don't communicate with each other at all. Marina and her assistants move people about, encouraging them to close their eyes, count small objects, stare at a coloured square on a wall or lie in on a camp stretcher (at least on the day we were there!). As with these pieces it is as much about what goes on in your head or the fun of observing other people. We both enjoyed it very much and, as I said at the start, found it much more intimate, which was good!

Coffee and a good walk North to Portobello Road and Notting Hill provided an interesting diversion and an experience of a different part of London on a, thankfully, finer day (we willl always be carrying our umbrellas though!). Lunch in "The Castle" with a pint each; the purchase of some earrings and a ring and a quick bus ride home for an afternoon nap prepared us for the evenings adventures! After dinner in our "Stylish Studio in Knightsbridge" (definitely more than adequate but more like "student digs in Newtown") we headed out for our first night at The Proms. Most of you would be familiar with this two month long, BBC sponsored festival of classical music that is made accessible to all - the rich and the poor! Held in the RAH and featuring a range of British and overseas orchestras and performers it has been going since the 1890's. A feature and hence the name is that the "Stalls" seats are taken out to create an "Arena" space for standing only! If it isn't too crowded you can "promenade" while listening to the music and these tickets are really cheap if you get in early (our weekend passes for five concerts were almost cheaper that the drinks at interval!!). We had a number of hilarious conversations with people in the queue about the various protocols of queing .. these cheaper tickets and the institutionality of the event certain attracts the full range of British eccentrics!! One thing that really struck us was the number of men of all ages in the promming audience - there were lots of women too of course but the groups of men, and guys on their own was quite noticeable. It was a marvellous experience with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marcus Stenz doing Rameau, a modern piano "Concherto" by Bernard Rands with Mozart 1st Symphony and R. Strauss "Ein Heldenleben". The sound was extraordinary and standing only about five metres from the conductor and the soloist (it wasn't too crowded!) was incredible! Great fun!! Three more promming concerts this weekend and two (sitting down) concerts on Tuesday!

At 10, upstairs in the "Elgar Room", a young modern Jazz quintet (Misha Mullov-Abbado Quintet) shared the small stage with Ben Norris, a prize-winning young poet. This was delightful and really classy. The poetry and the music mix was so good, We wandered home around midnight having enjoyed a truly wonderful day! We might start a little more slowly tomorrow .....

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