The final Ask The Audience from the 2017 BBC Proms is with Leanne Mison, who promotes and endorses an impressive roster of electronic music artists for Bang On PR. Leanne talks to Arcana about a Prom given by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and their chief conductor Sakari Oramo, – with two solo vocal turns from the superstar New York soprano Renée Fleming.
Prom 61: Renée Fleming (soprano), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
Andrea Tarrodi Liguria
Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915 Op.24
Richard Strauss Daphne – Transformation Scene, ‘Ich komme – ich komme’
Nielsen Symphony No 2 ‘The Four Temperaments’
Royal Albert Hall, Wednesday 30 August 2017
You can listen to this Prom on the BBC iPlayer here
ARCANA: Leanne, how would you describe your musical upbringing?
My parents attempted to introduce me to classical music from quite an early age, but I didn’t show too much interest in it at the time. My mum joined a classical music vinyl club and would be sent a record every month, but we rarely ever played them. I’d love to dig them out now and see what she had! My proper introduction to music was via piano which I learnt to play from the age of seven, so pieces by Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart and Mendelssohn. I did get really into it at one point as I had an inspiring teacher who was about 80 years old and I’d get to practise on her baby Steinway. I reached Grade 7 but as the expectations grew for me to practise for an hour and more a day, my interest waned. At that age, it doesn’t earn you very much kudos with other kids so I gave in to peer pressure. My parents said I would regret it and they was right of course!
My parents listened to things like The Carpenters and The Cars. Around the age of 9, I started listening to things like Salt ‘n’ Pepa, En Vogue and Bobby Brown. I still like that music now, it’s super fun. When I about 15, I tried to fit in and listen to the same kind of music my friends were into like Bon Jovi, Oasis and The Verve but it didn’t really stay with me to be honest. When I was 12, I randomly picked up a Telstar tape of rave music for 99p at Woolworths and I heard things like The KLF and 808 State for the firs time. I was like ‘Wow, what was that?!’ – there were no reference points, I had no idea about rave culture. I didn’t hear music like that again for quite a long time but that was the start of me getting into electronic music.
Could you name three musical acts that you love and say why you love them?
I really love what Factory Floor do. Their music can get so madly intense and mesmerising, and live – you can’t help but dance but you can also have a very cerebral experience with it too.
I’ve been really enjoying listening to Nick Hakim of late. His album Green Twins has this irresistible, other worldliness to it – all hazy psychedelic R & B.
And then there is the master entertainer Chilly Gonzales. He puts classical music and pop music in the same space, weaving them together and presenting their common thread. Then he throws in a heavy dose of comedy, a bit of history and a piano tutorial and we just lap it all up! I wish he’d been around when I was growing up, I probably would have been inspired to carry on and do my Grade 8!
Are you ever tempted to go back to the piano?
Obviously I’d love to be able to play now, who knows I might get back into it at some point (probably when I’m retired!)
One of the great benefits of having instant access to music on Youtube and Spotify is that you can actually hear what the piece is supposed to sound like and what you should be aiming for. It’s more inspiring than back in the old days!
What did you think of the Andrea Tarrodi piece tonight?
It was really pretty, delicate and playful. Lots of shimmers of light but then it went on a dramatic roller coaster later.
I really enjoyed it, so much so I wanted to go to the front to get the full experience! I was quite surprised when you said the composer was younger than both of us.
If you didn’t know that piece was about anything, did it conjure up any images?
That’s a good question, I wasn’t really thinking along the line of images – but now you mention it maybe rolling fields and mountain tops?
What about the Barber, with Renée Fleming?
This was very enjoyable too, and took me a bit more out of my comfort zone as I’m not used to listening to an operatic voice accompanied by that many musicians. Sadly I’m more used to listening to things on laptop speakers so it’s a real treat to experience that breadth of sound and visually it’s very impressive too.
What did you think about the Strauss?
There was a lot going on here, I found the soaring operatic voice quite dramatic and emotional, I think I was more taken by what was happening with the strings. I should listen to more music like this and try and understand it. I found my mind wandering a bit more with this one, I started looking at the audience and observing their facial expressions and they seemed pretty serious on the whole. Perhaps they were intensely into it! The musicians facial expressions themselves were a lot more expressive, especially the conductor’s.
Working in music PR, I spend a lot of time reading reviews and people’s thoughts on music. Tonight it was a clean slate, I was listening to music I’m very rarely exposed to and with no idea what critics have said about it and that was very refreshing.
What did you think about the Proms, and what did you enjoy about it?
The music was actually quite accessible and experiencing that range and depth of sound in a space as beautiful as the Royal Albert Hall brings out all sorts of different feelings in you. It’s quite unique and I can see why people enjoy it so much.
Would you change anything about your Proms experience?
Not at all, I only wish I’d come to more. I went once about 10 years ago but my recollections of it are vague.
I’d read some of your Ask the Audience pieces before and was really intrigued by it and really glad you invited me!
My experience of seeing classical music is quite limited, I’ve seen some experimental music with orchestras such as Varèse performed at the Royal Festival Hall which was really dark. Also Helmut Lachenmann and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, all quite challenging and let’s face it, not nearly as fun as tonight!
Would you go again?
Yes, definitely. Here’s to next year and thanks very much for inviting me.