Proms Extra: Episode 6 BBC Proms


Proms Extra: Episode 6

Proms magazine show. Katie Derham is joined by YolanDa Brown, Soweto Kinch and John Butt to discuss Bach's St John Passion and the Charles Mingus Prom.


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Welcome to Proms Extra, we're your window on to the Proms

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Tonight we're all about passion and spirit as we reflect

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And inside the Hall the Proms action continues with a flourish.

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Inside our grand studio we have three award winning guests who have

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pledged to be enthusiastic, controversial and learned.

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No pressure then on not one but two saxophonists,

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YolanDa Brown and Soweto Kinch, plus the conductor, John Butt.

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, Thank you for having us. YolanDa, you have been busy, got a new album

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out? It has been exciting, I have been putting ?1 in the job every

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time I say exciting. But sharing it with a new audience. Posh reggae. I

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am not calling it jazz, posh reggae. Something new for a good time

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feeling. It was nice to come into the Jazz Forum and be in The Royal

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Albert Hall and the auditorium for the Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy

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Gillespie celebration. It was a great night. Talking of great

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nights, John, have you recovered, come down or are you still buzzing

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from your prom? Still buzzing, but I have been doing university work this

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week so I have had to put my brain into a certain degree of straight

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gear. Yes, up and down, basically. The variety of you like is

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interesting. It is interesting at times. And Soweto, you have had your

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festival? Yes, enjoying jazz now I getting up close and personal with

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the musicians I admire. Really enjoying that show.

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Last night BBC four hosted the Charles Mingus Prom,

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a tribute to the late, great, double bassist.

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Why is Charles Mingus such an important name in the name of jazz?

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He stands at a certain juncture in terms of how the music evolved. The

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outset of bebop, and he was considered an innovator among Dizzy

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Gillespie and Charlie Parker who co-defined what we call bebop. His

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approach was so broad and big in terms of scope, in terms of his

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albums, he didn't write conventional forms and it helped straddle

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different eras of jazz. If you hear Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, his other

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works, someone keen to integrate the full gambit of jazz history,

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somebody very serious about that. I love him for his political bent as

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well, his ability to speak out, musically, at a time of civil

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rights. He was passionate. He was a significant figure? Yes, somebody of

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authenticity when you look at his music.

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Let's look at what made Charles Mingus so and forgettable.

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That was a short snapshot of the music of Charles Mingus

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with the Metropole Orkest, conducted by our old friend Jules Buckley.

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YolanDa, amazing array of talent on that stage? Everybody brought

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something different and the music of Charles Mingus is something we know.

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Songs you would have heard parts of all alone in his repertoire. It was

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interesting to see what the different soloists brought to the

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table. The one thing I did like was the connection between them. I think

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there was always a smile, Charles Mingus loved when people traded

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solos and you really did grasp that from these soloists, they weren't

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afraid to play from each other, boost each other up. A lot of

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different styles of entertainment and showmanship on that stage.

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Soweto, you know some of them, what are your impressions? In one sense,

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it is not completely out of keeping with Charles Mingus. You have Frank

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Lacy, real performers as well as musicians. That is the thing, if you

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want big, bright loud colours and dance routines, you have got to be

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playing. Especially in the music we deal with. Authenticity is prime and

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we also look to see if somebody is faking the front, taking the jazz.

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Was there any faking going on? It is hard to tell. We don't just want

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impact. I don't want to berate something that could be ringing new

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people in. You want weight, you want depth and authenticity and I am not

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sure how much genuine affection for Charles Mingus I heard. Really, from

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some? From some. Where there any standout moments?

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Christian and Chewbacca. My brothers from other mothers. They understand

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themselves and push the boundaries forward from that perspective. I

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enjoyed hearing what they were doing. John, I am interested in

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knowing what you thought of that jazz, you could be a jazz cat for

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all we know? I wish I was. If I could do it, I would. I don't have

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the right ears. But I do appreciate jazz and it is very close to Baraka

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music, which I do a lot of. You have a difference between formalised

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sections which are notated and the bits which are more loose. That is

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what happens in 17th and 18th century music. There is a lot in

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common and the continuous baseline which is shared between 17th and

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18th century music and jazz in general. I have seen you improvise.

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I can fill in courts, but I wish I were better at it, but I do

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improvise. We will be talking about Bach later in the programme, if he

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were a musician today, maybe he would have been involved in this

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prom. You would have the right. Professional musician. Talking about

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Jules Buckley, they are on a roll with bringing this kind of music to

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a different audience, orchestrating it in a different way, was it

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something Charles Mingus would have appreciated? Evolving, using the

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music as a template and then letting it develop is something he would

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have endorsed. But it is how an steeped are you in that tradition?

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Lester Young, one of the generations that preceded him. There always has

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to be some historical credibility, even if you are not playing in the

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old style. It is what the Proms are about, we have seen a fantastic

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programme this year, the different types of Proms and people would say

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it is not the traditional way we would season the Proms, but the

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music they brought to the fore, the repertoire they brought to the fore

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has branched out and made it something that can appeal to another

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audience. I have to say, to this particular prom, from the very first

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solo, the audience were clapping, dancing and they were up. The

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response on social media and the response in the hall was electric.

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People loved it. Great clips of them getting into it and dancing and if

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that helps them go back to listen to the original repertoire of Charles

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Mingus, the prom has done its job. Sometimes the audience was silence,

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they had an awareness of where they could tune into the happenings and

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sometimes make noises. And sometimes their silence was very impressive.

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Brilliant. If you want to get beneath the underdog that is Charles

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Mingus, head to the BBC iPlayer. Soweto will be playing a number from

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Charles Mingus back catalogue at the end of the show. During the

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eight-week Proms season, the hall is a hive of activity from early

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morning into the late night. But for one select group, the hall is open

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all hours, and for them the witching hour is the only time to get their

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work done and get closer to their musical God.

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Bach is the most amazing brain and heart on any musician I have ever

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encountered. For all his massive intellect, Bach still charms us with

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beautiful harmonies and beautiful tones of phrase. A lot of the hard

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work has to go on at night. It is both the joy and the problem with

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being an organist. When it is the middle of the night,

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it is kind of weird to be here. You can't really play the organ during

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the day, there is too much going on, so you get used to working at

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unsocial hours. And it is very, kind of, well, spooky feeling. You are

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left in there on your own. There are ghosts about. The Royal Albert Hall

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organ is an mighty beast, it is enormous. It makes such a raw. You

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certainly dominate the building. Inside the organ, there are hundreds

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and thousands of pipes with four keyboards and pedals. It is many

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thousands. You sit at your console playing and sounds might be popping

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out round the corner, almost underneath you or, way above your

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head. The two little pieces of Bach I am playing tomorrow, it is

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translated from German into Little Organ Book. Bach left it almost

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unfinished. The project I have been running for nearly ten years is to

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commission contemporary composers to fill in the blank pages. Take the

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tune Bach intended and compose a short piece on that June. We are

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paying homage to music from 300 years ago. I will probably go on

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until 2:30am, 3am in the morning and then be up bright and early for the

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concert. I know you play the organ as well as

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conduct. Does that ring true for you? Have you played in the middle

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of the night in the Albert Hall? I have, yes. It happens all the time

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when you have to play something. When I was a student at Cambridge, I

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was in charge of letting the visiting recital players into the

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chapel in the evening to play the organ. I let him in at eight o'clock

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one night, went to the pub, went to the bed, and at three o'clock in the

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morning I was woken up by the porters because he had set for the

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Alliance. He could not get out. That is my best story, my worst story, in

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terms of that. The Royal Albert Hall in the middle of the night, a little

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bit eerie? The light is always on so it is not that different from

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daytime. It is the bits back on stage which are easily. The hall is

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the same as it ever is. There are no windows. I have been there a bit. As

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jazz musicians, we always assume that jazz recitals in jazz clubs

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stay open all night. Is that your time of day? It is. I have just come

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back from touring in Australia. Everyone talks about the jet lag.

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For the first few days I was fighting it, trying to stay up in

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the daytime, then I realised, I work at night. I was up until 5am. It is

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a good time to play. Do you work better at night? Much of a muchness.

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There are times when in terms of getting inspired, I love the

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late-night session. I might be going to win tonight. In terms of

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compositions, sometimes I like to wake up early and approach it like a

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normal working day. Sit behind the piano.

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Last Sunday, BBC Four showed the mammoth work that is Bach's St

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John Passion, which featured an array of soloists, and the

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Dunedin Consort led by their conductor, John Butt.

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It was more than just a concert, wasn't it? Yes, part of the brief

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was to celebrate the Reformation. I thought it would be quite nice to do

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what Luther, the first reformer in or give it did. Congregational

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singing on a large scale. That gives you the whole context for the find

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world of Bach and his contemporaries. What I did was

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reconstruct the liturgy, which is all song, but it goes around Bach's

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Passion. You can feel how the Passion comes in and out of a larger

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whole. The audience, having sung, are resonating in a way. I think

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they listen differently if they have already sung a little bit and will

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sing again at the end, even though they are not singing the most

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complex music. Later made music accessible to every level. All

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levels are catered for. That is something we benefit from in western

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culture still. Let's have a glimpse

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of this right now. Our sofa guest John Butt leading

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the Dunedin Consort and soloists inside the Proms' own place

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of worship, the Royal Albert Hall. John, you're already mentioned about

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the participation of the audience. It was striking, seeing how engaged

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in the faces in the arena where. How many do you reckon were singing? I

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counted from the film earlier, and directing it was one in five, over

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1000 people singing, which is bigger than I have conducted before. It was

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a wonderful sound. They kept together fantastically well.

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Amazing. It gives them a type of attention that is different from the

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standard classical music, occasionally antiseptic setting.

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It gives it more floor. People would read -- people would originally have

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gone to hear the St John Passion in church. It would not have been an

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entertainment. Although it is said that Bach was filling a hole in

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Leipzig, the lack of opera. The opera house had closed down. People

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went to appreciate the music, and the sermons. They went to the coffee

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houses in the evenings and marked them. There was a critical culture.

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It was not just blind adoration. It was a critical culture, where people

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really did think about the music in every respect. And also the

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preaching, which was an art form in its own right. We would have had

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about an hour's worth of salmon. We would. We had the interval and I

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told the audience they would have to preach to each other. Tell me why

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you put the choir where you put them. We're used to seeing them in

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the stalls, but not on your show? If you look at historical sources for

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singers and choirs as well, the singers are almost always at the

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front, not necessarily because it makes it louder, but you get much

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clear diction that way. I do it almost all the size, regardless of

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size, in most of the productions I am responsible for. I get as many of

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the singers as I can at the front. It is a completely different sound.

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The choir at the back is an invention of the 19th century when

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you had so many singers that there was no one else to put them. They

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are so loud they have a massive impact. With small professional

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performances like this, you lose so much if you put them there, it is

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money wasted for an expensive choir. YolanDa, last year you took part in

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the Gospel Prom which was musical worship of a different kind, or was

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it? The rate is the same, it is the same lard and Jesus. Interestingly,

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watching this Prom, when you approach it as if you were in the

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service, I think you do then worship in the same way. The feeling is the

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same. The style of music is different, but I think it is there.

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Hearing the evangelists really preach and tell the story, having

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the motion, especially when you have the subtitles, you do well up, that

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same emotion and reverence. Yes, a different style of music but the

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same feeling. The storytelling was very strong in this performance?

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Absolutely, especially when they got to the crucifixion. There was

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silence. That for me, that put the nail in the cross, if you like. It

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really was a poignant moment. Seeing Nicholas, his face. He really tells

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the story amazingly. Soweto, how does Bach fit into your world? On

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lots of different levels. His spiritual inspiration, the things he

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was doing at Leipzig, counterpoint, lots of specific things I draw

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inspiration from. Overall, you listen to something like the

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Goldberg variations and you can almost see the music. You see the

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logic of counterpoint, things that really inspire you, that almost let

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you reflect on a higher plane. Particularly with St John Passion, I

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have enjoyed the way it goes from really big movements, like the first

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one we were discussing earlier, one of the greatest introductory

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passages of music, and then to peer down to other sections. I cannot

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remember what they are called. You would have to help me out. Exactly.

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Equally affecting with small ensemble. Some pieces are just

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trios. Bach is always the composer is sated when people speak about

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this. Music and mathematics. Your last album was about the numbers

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around music? Yes, that inspired me for that album, exploring numbers,

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form, and the ability of our brains to create shapes, basic --

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basically, based on what we hear. If you want to, and you should,

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do head to the BBC iPlayer where And we're not done with the Passion

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yet, as in this penultimate Chord Of The Week, our resident

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preacher, David Owen Norris Our Chord Of The Week comes near the

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end of the first part of JS Bach's St John Passion. A terrible moment

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of betrayal where Peter denies Christ three times, the clock crows,

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Peter weeps bitterly, and the choir sings.

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Bach was a master of the rules of harmony, such a master that he could

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twist them to shockingly express events even in music just for four

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voices, 4-part harmony. When the six lane of the corral begins, the

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chords on correct, because the base, confronted with a particular discord

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performs a semitone. When the next thing we hear is the Stark we expect

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the same thing to happen. But featuring Bach has to harmonise is

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not this. But this. The top three voices, the soprano, the Alto and

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the tenor, find a way of harmonising that that makes perfect sense to

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them. But by doing that, they have betrayed the base, which, like

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Jesus, must follow its own destiny and form a semitone. And then Bach,

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still following all the rules of harmony, resolves that discord in

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the D minor. This one borough 4-part harmony -- this one bar of four

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part. It encapsulates all of the story so far.

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I am fascinated to know what you thought of that interpretation, from

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David. Fantastic. It brings out the visceral type in the music. We think

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of Bach as being a brain musician, but you can feel everything in this.

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I wish he had gone on one more phrase. There is a beautiful and

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prepared seventh in the next phrase. It comes with the words that mean

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something bad. Bach does something bad as well, which is stunningly

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bad. It works really well. I have the sudden image of you and David

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head-to-head, with the kind of musicology. When you listen to

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explanations of the music like that, does it bring to life -- does it

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bring it to life? It does for me. Absolutely. It puts the process to

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an effect that we understand, we understand the results when it is

:27:43.:27:46.

tension released. You feel that something is being stretched out and

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we find a resolution. To have somebody explain, thankfully it does

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not take the soul out of it. It helps me understand. I often think

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that only if I had a music teacher like him at school, I could have

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been composing like you guys. David Owen Norris returns next week

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to say, quite literally, Bon Voyage to the final

:28:05.:28:08.

Chord Of The Week. At Proms Extra, we love a tea break

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and imagine our delight when one of the world's classical stars

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made time in her schedule to So who else could deliver

:28:16.:28:17.

silver service to Renee Fleming St Anne, the

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world-renowned soprano and one of classical music's most inspirational

:28:45.:28:48.

singers. Everywhere from the Super Bowl to the Queen's Jubilee, to the

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Proms. I am lucky enough to have a cup of tea with her. You are here in

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London. I have got to get your cup of tea. I have got to offer you one

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at least. Thank you. What would you like, normal, builder's, terrible? I

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never drink tea at home. I drink coffee, but when I am here, I love

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Earl Grey. It is terribly boring. A splash of milk. A little milk and

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sweetener. I am armed with questions from your beloved fans. The first is

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from someone in Brighton. Do you get to keep all your posh frocks? Yes, I

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keep all of the concert dresses. By the time I finished doing with them,

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these dresses could walk away and have their own life. They really

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live around the world. This is a question from China. How long does

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it take to become a successful soprano? Is it training or are you

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born with it? I think I have an inkling.

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I think there are a lot of fantastic voices in the world, more than you

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will ever know. They work in supermarkets, everywhere. As a lyric

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soprano myself, this is a lady on Twitter, she says is it good to end

:30:15.:30:24.

up as a tree? That is a good point. Unequivocally, it is great to hand

:30:25.:30:30.

up as a tree. How many hours a day do you practice. That is from a

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little girl from Bethnal Green. When I was learning how to sing,

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typically an hour and a half. Rehearsals, can go for six hours.

:30:42.:30:47.

Question from Kirsty, what did you think of the rowdy rabble down at

:30:48.:30:53.

the front of the arena? I love the Proms, I wish more cities would find

:30:54.:30:59.

a way to do it. I always say to people, you should be in London, to

:31:00.:31:05.

see all of these people standing. What was your most embarrassing

:31:06.:31:10.

moment on stage? My skirt came. Cannot beat that. How is the tea?

:31:11.:31:15.

Excellent. Cheers, Renee. That was the opera superstar

:31:16.:31:19.

Renee Fleming and you can catch her Prom this Wednesday live

:31:20.:31:21.

on Radio 3. She said, John you couldn't beat her

:31:22.:31:31.

skirt falling off, have you had one of those moments? Yes. I was

:31:32.:31:36.

conducting a concert in Glasgow about ten years ago and it was in

:31:37.:31:39.

the middle of the Scottish winter when it is very hard to see. I went

:31:40.:31:46.

to collect my shirt from the floor of the kitchen, where we are clean

:31:47.:31:50.

clothes. They look fine, did the rehearsal and put the shirt on five

:31:51.:31:54.

minutes before the concert. It turned out to be a shirt owned by my

:31:55.:32:00.

ten-year-old son. I could just about squeeze it run, except I had a huge

:32:01.:32:05.

midriff Axel it was quite fortunate in the end, because I had tails and

:32:06.:32:10.

the audience didn't notice. But the choir could see everything,

:32:11.:32:15.

including when things got hotter and wetter, it got worse. They laughed

:32:16.:32:19.

so much, it was the best singing I had ever had from the choir. It was

:32:20.:32:28.

fantastic. That is a tremendous image but the most inventive use of

:32:29.:32:34.

a combo Bund. Soweto, I know you are getting ready for your performers,

:32:35.:32:39.

have you got any moments like that? Too many, I have fallen off the

:32:40.:32:43.

stage, embarrassing. In South Africa, I was giving my usual Thai

:32:44.:32:49.

raid against corporate interest and the banks and I was getting really

:32:50.:32:53.

political and then I looked over my back and I realise the event was

:32:54.:32:58.

sponsored by standard bank. That was embarrassing. Other sponsors and

:32:59.:33:08.

banks are available, of course. How about you, YolanDa? There is

:33:09.:33:12.

something to be said about being comfortable on the stage, maybe not

:33:13.:33:19.

in a ten-year-old's shirt. I do take my heels of invalid interval. I went

:33:20.:33:25.

to my dressing room took my shoes. Then I realised there was a big rush

:33:26.:33:30.

to get back on stage. My picked up my saxophone, and then I thought

:33:31.:33:34.

things felt comfortable, I didn't know why. I looked down and I still

:33:35.:33:39.

had my slippers on. The audience thought it was a costume change, I

:33:40.:33:43.

don't know, they were very gracious. I had to get somebody to get my

:33:44.:33:50.

heels. You are just being so jazz, so relax. I know, now I see people

:33:51.:33:56.

in slippers all the time, I was ahead of the game. This dream dinner

:33:57.:34:04.

date, dream cup of tea, who would it be for you, John? Dream cup of tea,

:34:05.:34:08.

I used to work a little bit four and Schiff back in the late 90s when I

:34:09.:34:13.

played some of his things. To get a cup of tea with him was fantastic in

:34:14.:34:17.

that period in particular because I was learning so many of the pieces

:34:18.:34:23.

he was playing, Bach in particular. Very useful, one thing he told me,

:34:24.:34:32.

he said play half of this music a day. You can hear him playing Bach

:34:33.:34:45.

on the 7th of September. I wrote the programme notes. Briefly, YolanDa

:34:46.:34:51.

who would your dream date be with? It would be a very strange capacity,

:34:52.:34:56.

but one I would like to have with Bob Marley. Herbal tea, maybe.

:34:57.:35:02.

Excellent, tell us all about it. As we career towards the end,

:35:03.:35:04.

don't forget that you can catch up on the Proms we've discussed tonight

:35:05.:35:08.

on the BBC iPlayer, Radio 3 broadcasts every single Prom

:35:09.:35:11.

and there is a weekly Proms podcast. For your TV Proms fix catch

:35:12.:35:14.

conductor, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla with Then on the same channel next

:35:15.:35:17.

Friday it's a biggie, Clare Teal and the Big Band

:35:18.:35:23.

followed by Jools Holland's Thank you to YolanDa Brown

:35:24.:35:26.

and to John Butt for coming in. And it's thank you to our final

:35:27.:35:33.

guest who's about to pay tribute Accompanied by Nick Jurd,

:35:34.:35:36.

performing Boogie Stop Shuffle

:35:37.:35:42.

Katie Derham reviews the sixth full week of Proms activity in this penulitimate episode of Proms Extra. She is joined by jazz saxophonists YolanDa Brown and Soweto Kinch, as well as conductor John Butt to discuss Bach's St John Passion, performed last week at the Proms by John Butt's Dunedin Consort, and the Charles Mingus Prom, featuring Kandace Springs, Shabaka Hutchings, Christian Scott, Bart van Lier and Leo Pellegrino. David Owen Norris offers another Chord of the Week.


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