26 MAY 2017

Guy Noble reflects on his long affair with the Proms

As the SSO gears up to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday with the Proms, SSO Young Ambassador Will Cassell sits down with conductor Guy Noble to discuss this great music tradition.

When and where did you first go to a live Proms concert?

My first concert was an actual Last Night of The Proms in London in 1991. I was singing in the chorus and it was an amazing experience to be part of.

How did you feel when the SSO first decided to perform The Last Night of the Proms? And when was that?

You know, I can't actually remember the year (I think it was 2010), but we must have been doing this for about six years now (with a few gaps). I loved the idea of recreating the London concerts here in Australia, but with a few big differences. In London the concert is a little less British-centric, whereas here we are really paying tribute to the wonderful music that comes from that small set of islands.

A lot of people from England live in Australia, do you think the SSO’s Proms concert will appeal to them?

Absolutely. I think that if you went around the foyer you would hear a lot of English or Scottish or Irish accents. But there are many Aussie accents too — the music is so good that you don't need to be English to appreciate it in the same way that you don't need to be Austrian to appreciate Beethoven or Czech to appreciate Dvorak.

You seem to enjoy interacting with the audience. Do you see this as an ‘Australian’ trait of being more ‘laid back’? Or is it your own particular style?

I think it is certainly a bit Australian, but something I've developed into my own style. There is a lot of stuffiness around classical music, and I love breaking that down.

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Would you say that the audience’s familiarity with some of the pieces such as Land of Hope and Glory  can dilute their power?

Not at all — people love hearing things they like!

Do you think young Australians, like me, will be able to fully appreciate the significance of the pieces of music in the Last Night of the Proms?

I think the music is good enough to work whether or not you know the context. As a young Australian the Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 wouldn't mean anything patriotic, but the tune is amazing, the harmony is exciting and I don't think you can stop yourself from feeling the power of the music. And once you have all of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra musicians joined by the sound of the Sydney Opera House organ — well, that's pretty amazing!

What is your favorite piece to conduct in the Last Night of the Proms?

There is an arrangement we do of the hymn Jerusalem — it's orchestrated by Edward Elgar and there is this bit where the violins just shoot off to the top of the instrument like a sky rocket. Plus there’s the organ and the fact that everyone in the Concert Hall is singing — that is so much fun!

Buy tickets to hear Guy Noble conduct the SSO in Last Night of the Proms at the Sydney Opera House on June 9-10 HERE.

Image: Christie Brewster