The Prom took us through the story of Novello’s life, narrated with a great sense of humour and fun by the actor Simon Callow. There was quite a lot of Callow at the beginning of the prom, but with such a wonderful voice and delivery it was a joy to listen to and never became dull.
When the Hallé Orchestra struck up, directed by Sir Mark Elder, their swooping and rich playing brought Novello’s inter-war gems to life with the perfect balance of taste and sentimentality. This music just makes you smile and the combination of Callow and Hallé only accentuated the effect, whether they were playing a rousing overture or a touching love song.
On vocals were Toby Spence and Sophie Bevan, both singing with great character and panache. Thought Spence’s voice sounded a little tired, and became somewhat harsh in the upper register, he still managed to sing with care and meaning, and avoided making these simple songs sound like an effort. Bevan was on top form, with delicately hushed pianissimos, even right in the top of her range, and a warmth and passion that brought a tear to the eye. The highlight of the evening was Bevan’s performance of “I can give you the starlight”, which was simply perfect, with high notes floated effortlessly on the air.
This was a really special evening revisiting some wonderful music by an unjustly forgotten talent. With singers, orchestra and narrator all performing so fantastically, this really was A Glamorous Night and one which you can and should revisit online!
favourites as ‘We’ll
gather lilacs’? Tonight
we acknowledge that
patriotic First World
War plea to ‘keep
the home fires
burning’ in a tribute
to a silent-movie
actor, West End
composer and star
of a string of stage
popular in their day. Ivor Novello, the most
consistently successful composer of British musicals
before the advent of Andrew Lloyd Webber,
nowadays tends to be unjustly neglected.
Sir Mark Elder is a committed advocate, as is
tonight’s master of ceremonies, Simon Callow.
Royal Albert HallKensington Gore
London Greater London United Kingdom SW7 2AP