Blackheath Mini Prom – better late than never

As someone should probably have told me when I was a nipper, don’t promise what you can’t deliver. So here, very late, is my review of the Mini Prom at Blackheath Halls way back on the 5th October.  In my defence I’ve been busy promoting Arachne Press, and I carried the programme around with me for weeks, even on holiday, meaning to get round to it – no idea what I’ve done with it now, so this is very much from memory.

Consider it a compliment to the event and performers that I feel enthusiastic enough to finally blog about it, over a month later.

Now, I don’t much like the jingoism of Last Night of the Proms, but the music can carry you away.  I used to think this was just down to the sheer force of numbers ranged at the Royal Albert Hall, but it turns out you can melt my republican resistance with the combined effort of a string quartet and a Baritone and Tenor combo.

Grant Doyle, a Blackheath Community Opera regular, and recent winner of a Helpmann award for his role in Moby Dick, was master of ceremonies, (or perhaps Ring Master, even) telling tales, rabble rousing and singing with gusto. I don’t think Grant ever does anything other than at full tilt.  Grant was joined by Nicholas Sharratt (also a BCO regular) who although initially more restrained soon warmed up to the atmosphere of the evening.

The petite promenade was a little gem. The audience was sadly a bit small too but heavily seeded with members of the Blackheath Opera Chorus, all of whom love Grant and Nick dearly, and made up for paucity of numbers with enthusiasm: cheering, singing along and foot stamping, as is traditional – a roaring trade was carried out in flags, for the waving of.  I actually rather liked the intimacy of the evening and I can imagine this working very well indeed as a chamber work.  I felt very involved in the to-and-fro between the quartet and the singers.

Grant Doyle (with Louise Winter) in Cendrillion Rehearsal copyright Cherry Potts 2012

A highlight of the second half was Grant and Nick swooping in from the side aisles, trailing union flags like kids playing at super-heroes (a magnificently silly moment), and then demolishing their set to ensure that the more reserved members of the front row had sufficient flags to wave.

Musically, I was entranced by the string quartet (names? Lost programme! someone enlighten me, please, and I will update). Their nifty selection of the traditional sea songs, and the Pachelbel Canon were both charming in its delicacy.

On the vocal front, I was pleasurably reminded of Rule Britannia‘s Baroque antecedents, and Grant and Nick’s voices blended magnificently on the various duets.

However, I think first and foremost it is Grant Doyle’s ability to put a song over, acting his way through any number of different characters over the evening (Barber of Seville a highlight – and this from someone not wild about Rossini.) and thoroughly engaging his audience.

Standing ovation all round.

© Cherry Potts 2012

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