Classical Spectacular

Better late than never! I will finally get round to finishing and posting this!

Last Saturday A couple of weekends ago, we went down to the Royal Albert Hall in London to see the Classical Spectacular concert. We got the tickets back in April as it always sells out very quickly. It seemed a long way off at the time.

Anyway, on Saturday we went to the Music Centre as normal for the first two sessions and left at break time to take the instruments home. Then we drove over the Hemel Hempstead to catch the train. It takes about 25-30 minutes, which is similar to the time it would take to get to Luton Parkway station, however Hemel is much quieter and there is a huge carpark, so parking is never an issue. After buying our tickets, we only had to wait about 5 minutes for the next train to Euston; we were able to get seats without problem. The train was quick and clean, only stopping at Watford Junction on the way to Euston.

When we got to Euston, we headed for the Underground. This was the first slight variation to plan. I had already looked at the underground map and worked out we would pick up the Circle line at Euston and then get off at South Kensington, however, I didn’t look closely enough at the map. The Circle line stops at Euston Square not Euston. Now I know it’s only a couple of hundred yards between the two, but it was easier to just change our plans and take the Victoria line to Victoria and then the Circle line for two stops to South Kensington.

The tubes are always busy and still have a very Victorian feel about them, no matter what modernising occurs. The trains aren’t pristine and have a certain grubbyness about them. They are always overcrowded! I dread to think what the rest of the world will make of them in 2012 when we have the Olympics. We had to stand on the Victoria line for the 4 stops we needed and then changed onto the Circle line. We only had two stops to go, so standing wasn’t a problem. At the first stop, Sloane Square, some people got off which left seats for the kids and Jo. The man who was also sitting on that row of seats insisted that I have his seat, so that ‘Daddy can sit with the whole family’, even though I told him we only had one stop to go. Then, that thing that makes us Brits uncomfortable, he started to talk to me! He was talking about what I did for a living and about Romania where he comes from. I could see the looks on the people opposite me, it was ‘I’m glad he didn’t pick me’. He was pleasant enough, but we were glad to get off at the next stop.

When we came out of the underground at South Kensington, it was time to get something to eat. Before we travelled I had used Google Street View to explore the surrounding streets, so I knew that there were many eating options. We looked at the Pizza and Pasta restaurant next door to the tube station and liked the look of the menu and restaurant, so went in. We were going to order 4 garlic bread with cheese as starters, but the waiter advised against that and we just had 2. When they arrived they were like 8″ round pizzas, just made of garlic bread and covered in cheese; 2 were enough. A very nice start. The kids both had margherita pizzas to follow, Jo had lasagne and I had the Risotto di Mare. All were excellent. I love risotto and this was one of the best I have had, on a par with the one I had in Rome. The restaurant filled up very quickly, so I think we timed it well.

From here, we just had to walk straight up Exhibition Road. We passed the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, must get back to take the kids there some time. Outside Imperial College there was a ‘living status’ and a fire-eater, which we watched for a minute or so, but had to press on. Passing some large wall height windows at Imperial College, the kids spotted a racing car by the window. When I got home, I read a tweet by Claudio Von Planta about the car. It seems that it will be converted to be an electric car and is part of Racing Green Endurance, a flagship project of Imperial College. They plan to drive the car up the Pan-America highway.

From the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, all the way to Prudhoe Bay on the north Alaskan coast, we will become the first electric car to travel the full 26,000km of the Pan American Highway!

We carried on part the college and kept going up to Kensington Road; we could have cut through Kensington Gore to get to the Royal Albert Hall, but I want to approach from the front. When we arrived, it was about 2:10 and the doors didn’t open until 2:15, so there were long queues outside it. We crossed over the road to see the Albert Memorial. I hadn’t seen it before and hadn’t realised how large it was. We met up with the friends that were going with us here and then I took the kids to walk around the memorial, before we headed back over the road.

We headed round the side of the hall as we had seats at the back in the choir (the ‘cheap’ seats). When I booked the seats, there was very little choice left, so we ended up with the back row of the choir. This turned out to be much better than I had been told(, and imagined). The choir is in a couple of blocks of seats, with one row at the back. The first block is 3 rows (which were filled by the Royal Choral Society), then a block of 5 rows, then our row. This meant that we were very close to the orchestra and had a clear view of both the orchestra and the conductor. We were also on the same level as the pipes of the organ. If you look on the virtual tour of the Royal Albert Hall, we were in the choir on the right of the organ, in the middle of the row behind the top barrier. This worked out to be a excellent place, we had a barrier in front of us, so we didn’t feel like we would fall onto the seats in front and there was an exit at the end of the row that we could use rather than using the stairs by the organ.

When the first piece ‘Sunrise from Also Sprach Zarathustra’ started, you could almost taste the low notes from the organ, they came up through the floor and you resonated with them.

The first half consisted of:

Sunrise from Also Sprach Zarathustra – Strauss

Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre – Wagner

The Liberty Bell March – Sousa

Zadok the Priest – Handel

Hungarian Dance No 5 – Brahms

Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman – Offenbach

Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition – Mussorgsky

Duet from the Pearl Fishers – Bizet

Rhapsody in Blue – Gershwin

Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 – Elgar

After the interval we restarted with O Fortuna from Carmina Burana and then there were some announcements. There were a couple of birthdays, a golden wedding anniversary and then someone sitting down in the arena proposed to his girlfriend (she said yes).

The second half consisted of:

O Fortuna from Carmina Burana – Orff

Song of the Toreador from Carmen – Bizet

Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco – Verdi

La donna ̬ mobile from Rigoletto РVerdi

Galop from William Tell – Rossini

The Blue Danube Waltz – Strauss

Jerusalem – Parry

Rule, Britannia! – Arne

Nessum dorma from Turandot – Puccini

1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky

During the 1812 Overture, Jo was listening with her eyes shut and nearly jumped out of her seat when the indoor fireworks went off.

It was an excellent show and thoroughly worth going. The acoustics were brilliant, and we had a good view of the orchestra, actually able to watch them, not just seeing the music stands in front of them.

When we came out it was raining and we headed off to get something to eat. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea. Most of the restaurants were full or didn’t appeal to us. In the end we found another Italian restaurant down a side street. We ordered pizzas for the kids and I had a risotto again. The waiter said something about the pizza being rectangular in one pizza as it was easier for them to make that way and something about half a meter long, so I imagined a long thin pizza. No, this was enormous, about 0.5 m (20″) long and 0.25 m (10″) wide. The kids had a good try at it, but it was just too much. I wish the waiter had explained better, we would have only ordered 1 serving. My risotto was nice, but not as good as lunchtime.

We headed back onto the Underground and got to Euston about 8 o’clock. The next train that stopped at Hemel left at 20:34, so we had plenty of time. This was just as well; we got seats and settled down to wait. By the time the train left, it was absolutely rammed with no spare seats. We got home about 9:30, with two very tired kids.

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