Great Time at the Sherlock Holmes Prom

Even lovers of Sherlock Holmes may have learned something new about the great man on Sunday 16 August at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

The Sherlock Holmes Prom, Royal Albert Hall, 16 Aug 2015
The Sherlock Holmes Prom, Royal Albert Hall, 16 Aug 2015

Matthew Sweet, BBC Radio 3 presenter, and Mark Gatiss, actor, and co-creator of the Sherlock TV drama series, together presented  a fantastic programme of music related to Sherlock Holmes.  Mark Gatiss read several passages from the original Conan Doyle stories alongside the music. I learned that the original Holmes was a lover of the opera and especially Wagner; and that Irene Adler, “the Woman” (the one person who outwitted Holmes) was an operatic contralto who had performed at La Scala Milan. In addition to this, although Conan Doyle himself was not much of a musical buff, nevertheless his creation Holmes had a very abstruse taste in and knowledge of music; he was an expert on the “polyphonic motets of Lassus.”

Additionally, Holmes’ gift for playing the violin was one aspect of the great detective which Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt chose to adhere to firmly when they re-created him as Sherlock for the twenty-first century. The deerstalker cap came much later; but the violin was a necessity from the very beginning.

Once again I wondered at and rejoiced in the fact that when we create fictional characters we may give them skills and abilities and awareness far beyond our own; and when they come to take on their own life in the minds of our readers, then who would ever guess the limitations of their creator?  An uplifting thought indeed for novelists!

The Royal Albert Hall, London – A Place of Wonder and Inspiration

The Royal Albert Hall is one of my favourite London venues.

Royal Albert Hall, London (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)
Royal Albert Hall, London (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

I was there on Saturday, with my daughter Abigail, watching a performance of Swan Lake in the round, by the English National Ballet. Sixty swans danced in the arena below us, transformed into a lake by skilful lighting effects; and the audience delighted in the performances of Dmitri Gruzdyev as Prince Siegfried and Fernanda Oliveira as Odette and Odile.

The earliest memory I have of the Royal Albert Hall is when, as a child, I sang in the Chorus of Younger Angels  in a performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony.

I stood close to the organ; and I’ve never forgotten that tremendous experience as trumpets, drums and organ, under Leonard Bernstein’s  flambuoyant direction, brought Mahler’s ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ to its thunderous conclusion.

Programme for Swan Lake performance 23 June 2013
Programme for Swan Lake performance 23 June 2013

During my sixth form days in Orpington, Kent, I often took the train to London with my schoolfriends so we could sit on the pavement outside the Royal Albert Hall in a queue for promenaders tickets for the BBC Proms;  and then, once inside the door, sprint to the arena, to find the best place at the front, near the conductor’s rostrum.

One summer, I spent several hours walking up and down the queue with spare tickets to sell, having bought Gallery tickets for a half season.

Later, when I lived in Bayswater, London W2, the Royal Albert Hall was just a stroll across Kensington Gardens, to go to the rehearsals and concerts of another choir I sang in – the London Choral Society.

Whenever I now enter the Royal Albert Hall, I feel a deep sense of affection and euphoria.

This  great circular space is to me, and to many even without such memories, both grand  and intimate.

It’s also wonderfully flexible,with its central arena, for many great occasions.

The Hall was originally supposed to have been called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria to Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences when laying the foundation stone, as a dedication to her deceased husband and consort Prince Albert. It forms the practical part of a national memorial to the Prince Consort – the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by the road Kensington Gore.

Thank you to Queen Victoria for deciding to commemorate Albert  in this, among many other ways!

Sheil in the Royal Albert Hall auditorium (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)
Sheila in the Royal Albert Hall auditorium (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)