Night of passion at the Proms

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The Independent Online
The sight of John Drummond charging into battle is always fun - certainly a lot more fun than any party conference. This time Drummond is having another go at the audience at the Last Prom, or at least that section of it which tries to compete with the music by sounding horns, rattling rattles and blowing strange knick-knacks.

Please leave these at home, pleads Drummond in the Prom programme, and let's all listen to the music.

This is not going to please those members of the audience who have come to the Prom with their noisy equipment, and who then buy the programme, read Drummond's words, burst into contrite tears and then have to go all the way home to leave their klaxons before coming back again. John Drummond should be aware that there may be some who will read his words in the programme and not go all the way home.

He should also be aware that he is not making any converts at the HQ of CAMPA, who are fully determined to make as much noise as possible during the Last Prom.

CAMPA stands for the Campaign for Authentic Music Performance and Appreciation, a body which is fighting a long battle to get authenticity and tradition back into concert-going, and which is aghast at what it sees as Drummond's philistinism.

"We all know about the authentic music movement," says chairman Colin Hogweed. "Everyone must know by now that conductors are going back to the original score, pianists are using period instruments and orchestras are being reduced to the original manpower. But the movement is not complete if we do not also go back to the original listening conditions - and that means going back to the original audiences and their performance.

"Well, in Mozart's and Beethoven's day, audiences were much more lively than they are today. They ate, chatted, drank, waved, read, got up and walked about, wrote notes to each other, flirted and fell asleep. They also listened to the music, of course, but the music was just part of the experience. The only vestige of that left nowadays is the Last Prom. And now this Drummond fellow wants to ruin it all! Well, he won't, not if CAMPA has anything to do with it."

But doesn't Drummond have a point? Shouldn't one want to listen to the music?

"Not to the exclusion of all else. If you go out to a restaurant, do you think you should conduct the meal in total silence? Is it an insult to the food if you talk or laugh? Of course not. But that is what he is suggesting. What he wants is the sort of silence you get in a recording studio. Fair enough, for a recording. But not in real life.

"And that is why the rapid reaction force from CAMPA will be there on the night."

Will they be blowing klaxons along with the rest of them ?

"We tend to shy away from klaxons. We don't think they had klaxons in Beethoven's day and we do try to make it authentic. That's why we prefer to stage dinner parties during concerts, and card games, and that sort of thing. You can hear the chink of glasses and rattle of cutlery on all our records.

"But obviously we don't want to give away all our plans straight away, or else Drummond might spike our guns. Talking of guns ..."

CAMPA is going to take guns to the Last Night of the Proms? That's going a bit far, surely?

"Well, there are records in the old days of people fighting duels during a concert, and very often challenging each other to duels because of incidents at a concert, so I think that a little gun play would not be out of place. Of course, Drummond would be down on us like a ton of bricks, but we'd be ready for him. We would be armed, after all. And anyway, worse things have happened during concerts."

Worse?

"Well, more extreme, more sensational. In the olden days it was not unknown for passions to be inflamed by the more sensuous music, and people were seen to use the privacy of a box to - well, let us say, consummate their marriage."

You mean, they actually ...

"Yes, they actually did."

And do they have any plans like that for this year's Last Prom?

Colin Hogweed smiles mysteriously.

"That would be telling. We don't want any word of our plans getting back to old Drummond, do we? It's going to be hard enough getting some of our equipment in, anyway, without trying to smuggle a large bed in as well. Though I must say I would love to see Drummond's face if he happened to turn round during one piece to see what the noise was, and found himself looking at a couple in a large double bed ..."

I think I'd love to see that, too.

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