Proms in the Pub Podcast

Proms in the Pub

The Promenade Concerts at London’s Albert Hall are the greatest music festival on the planet.

Proms in the Pub is comedian and conductor Rainer Hersch’s informal and irreverent take on the season with guests from the world of classical music, lifting the piano lid on what really happens in London SW7 each summer.

Violinist Tasmin Little OBE has played 21 times at the Proms. Hear her great stories about walking up the gangplank to the stage at the Albert Hall, dealing with orchestra members who hover round her changing room practising the very concerto she is about to play, and much more besides. Plus a special musical treat from Harry the Piano (
Rainer reviews the First Night of the Proms then chats with Chief Critic of the Daily Telegraph, Ivan Hewett. Ivan has been listening to Proms concerts since he was a boy. Hear Ivan’s fascinating insights into Proms history, its audience and the woman who wants her ashes to be scattered in the Albert Hall fountain. All that plus his top five concerts of the 2022 season and a musical treat from Harry the Piano.
The Proms was different back then.
Norma Fisher had a sparkling solo career in the 60s and 70s including a number of Proms appearances, and is now one of Britain’s most respected piano teachers . Hear about her BBC audition to an, apparently, completely empty Albert Hall; not making eye contact with Sir Malcolm Sargent, and overcoming the horrors of a memory lapse whilst playing Rachmaninov live at the Proms. Plus: review of Cynthia Erivo and our usual musical treat from Harry the Piano.
Rainer gets an unexpected gift and attends the Promenade concert world premiere of a ‘Four Seasons for bees’. Rob Cowan, has been talking and writing about classical music since the 60s, including countless years presenting the Proms live for BBC Radio. So, who better to find out what is going on behind the scenes? Let’s hear about the experience of fronting the Last Night; Rob’s greatest Prom EVER, and those very special recordings that have moved his audience to tears. Musical treat from Harry the Piano.
Australian/British Piers Lane is one of our most loved pianists. Eavesdrop on how his father erected a makeshift aerial in a Frangipani tree in order to hear his son playing live at the Albert Hall, 12,000 miles away; the trials of relearning piano concertos, and why one should always check one’s flies before walking out on stage. Plus: Rainer’s review of Prom 10 ‘Music for Royal Occasions’ and a musical treat from Harry the Piano.
What’s it like to write a piece for the Last Night? Star composer Roxanna Panufnik knows all about it. She also knows what happens if you keep Russian maestro Valery Gergiev waiting and the price of a digital stethoscope. Confused? You won’t be after this charming interview. Plus: Harry the Piano turns the Water Music into liquid jazz. Not to be missed.
Pianist and broadcaster Simon knows a thing or two about music – like what Wagner nicked from Rogers and Hammerstein for example. Then there’s what Mary Poppins has to do with La Traviata, plus he can explain the secret tricks composers use to make your heart melt. Special guest Harry the Piano works his magic on Mozart and Debussy.
Norman Lebrecht is one of the most celebrated writers on Classical Music. He is unashamedly pugnacious in his opinions about the industry, predicting recently that the 2022 Proms would be the last as we know them. So what comes next? Could the the BBC and Proms ever part company? Find out in this fascinating interview. Plus Rainer on buying tickets at the Albert Hall and Beethoven 5 by Harry the Piano.
Rainer pops backstage to meet British oboist and conductor Nicholas Daniel, in 1980 one of the first winners of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, now globetrotting professor and virtuoso. Nick is preparing to play Vaughan Williams’s Oboe concerto at the Proms. Find out about the composer’s messy manuscripts and how Nick was once pulled over by police whilst listening to music. Harry the Piano wraps things off with an amazing JS Bach take on ‘Molly Malone’. Enjoy!
Oliver has been selling tickets, cheap, outside the Albert Hall for over 40 years. Now he is 79 and the business is not what it used to be: the audience books online and nobody has cash anymore. Listen to the poignant story of one of the Proms’ quiet background characters as he draws towards the end of an era. The episode ends with Harry the Piano playing his own special concert paraphrase on ‘La donna è mobile’ – and that’s the kind ‘mobile’ that comes with a ringtone.
Born in Bavaria, now with both British and German citizenship, Baritone Benjamin Appl is a much sought after recitalist and soloist in works from Bach to Benjamin Britten. He talks with candour about the fears and triumphs in the life of a singer; what Germans know about the Proms; the time he croaked his way through Carmina Burana, plus the kindness and occasional cruelty of his mentor, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau. Harry the Piano mixes Carmina Burana with Schubert for a final treat (with cutlery).
What would The Proms be without the Prommers? Rainer speaks to some of the hardcore fans, many of whom have been attending for decades, about the quirks, the trials and the friendships made in queuing for the daily cheap standing tickets. Harry the Piano plays homage to their round-the-clock devotion with ‘Night and Day’, Beethoven style.
Conductor Barry Wordsworth is a true hero of the Proms – veteran of 30 appearances, including the 1993 Last Night, he has has done it all: jubilee concerts, programmes of Royal celebration, concertos, first performances. Hear his fascinating reminiscences of studying with Adrian Boult; how Malcolm Arnold nearly destroyed a priceless guitar live on the Albert Hall stage and more. Harry the Piano is on cue with his own razzmatazz take on Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite.
Finally, we get to meet Proms in the Pub’s very special guest, Harry the Piano, and talk to him about his genius ability to take audience suggestions and improvise: from Scooby-Doo à la Mozart to Beethoven doing ‘News at Ten’. Rainer and Harry also discuss the problems of crossing-over between comedy and classical music and their heroes including ‘the Great Dane’, Victor Borge. A closing treat from…who else but Harry the Piano. Sit back and enjoy.
Actor and satirist Tom Walker is better known as his foul-mouthed political TV anchor creation, Jonathan Pie. Tom is a Proms virgin or so he claimed, so together with Harry The Piano, we took him along to experience the Albert Hall and doing concerts as a promenader. Harry the Piano provides a special tribute treat – the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, but not as you know it.
Tommy Pearson has presented scores of Proms for BBC Radio 3, and a hell of a lot of John Williams concerts to boot. His wonderful, anecdote-filled chat with Rainer includes the times he both did and didn’t write a speech for Richard Attenborough; meeting TV legend Des Lynam, and what bathrooms of the rich and famous all have in common. Harry the Piano treats us to Franz Liszt’s take on Darth Vader’s Imperial March.
And so my friends, we reach the end of our series. In this Last Night of the Proms in the Pub, Rainer looks back over some of his favourite moments in the series as he and Harry the Piano say cheerio until next year….

Thanks for listening.

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