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


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


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


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


pledged to be enthusiastic, controversial and learned.


No pressure then on not one but two saxophonists,


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


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


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


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


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


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


Albert Hall and the auditorium for the Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the musicians I admire. Really enjoying that show.


Last night BBC four hosted the Charles Mingus Prom,


a tribute to the late, great, double bassist.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


authenticity when you look at his music.


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


That was a short snapshot of the music of Charles Mingus


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


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


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


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


interesting to see what the different soloists brought to the


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


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


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


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


different styles of entertainment and showmanship on that stage.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


some? From some. Where there any standout moments?


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


themselves and push the boundaries forward from that perspective. I


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


something Charles Mingus would have appreciated? Evolving, using the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


work done and get closer to their musical God.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


concert. I know you play the organ as well as


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


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


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


was in charge of letting the visiting recital players into the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


normal working day. Sit behind the piano.


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


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


Dunedin Consort led by their conductor, John Butt.


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


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


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


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


world of Bach and his contemporaries. What I did was


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


culture still. Let's have a glimpse


of this right now. Our sofa guest John Butt leading


the Dunedin Consort and soloists inside the Proms' own place


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


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


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


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


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


a wonderful sound. They kept together fantastically well.


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


standard classical music, occasionally antiseptic setting.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hearing the evangelists really preach and tell the story, having


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


inspiration from. Overall, you listen to something like the


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


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


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


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


one we were discussing earlier, one of the greatest introductory


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


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


Equally affecting with small ensemble. Some pieces are just


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Peter weeps bitterly, and the choir sings.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


part. It encapsulates all of the story so far.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to say, quite literally, Bon Voyage to the final


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


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


made time in her schedule to So who else could deliver


silver service to Renee Fleming St Anne, the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


born with it? I think I have an inkling.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Excellent. Cheers, Renee. That was the opera superstar


Renee Fleming and you can catch her Prom this Wednesday live


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


on the BBC iPlayer, Radio 3 broadcasts every single Prom


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


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


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


followed by Jools Holland's Thank you to YolanDa Brown


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


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


performing Boogie Stop Shuffle


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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