Exercise 1

A. You are going to listen to an interview with Sir Nicholas Kenyon, who was the director of a festival of concerts called the Proms for twelve years. Listen to part 1. Answer the questions.

1   What did an impresario want to do in 1895?

2   What was his brilliant idea?

3   Why are the concerts called the Proms?

4   How long do the Proms last?

5   What do people have to do to get the best places in the floor of the hall?

6   What is special about the Proms’ audiences?


 Use the Queen’s Hall for a series of popular concerts (to bring classical music to a wider audience).

 Taking away the seats on the floor of the hall so that people could stand and walk around.

 Because it is an abbreviation of Promenade concerts (people are able to walk around and stand during the music).

4   Two months.

5   They have to queue during the day.

6   They don’t dress up and they behave how they want but they really listen to the music. There is an amazing level of concentration.


I = interviewer, N = Nicholas Kenyon

  Sir Nicholas Kenyon was the director of a festival of concerts called the Proms for 12 years. How did the Proms start?

N   The promenade concerts started way back in 1895 when a brilliant impresario wanted to use a newly-built concert hall in London, the Queen’s Hall, for a series of popular concerts that really brought classical music to the widest possible audience. There were important classical concerts during the year, but in the summer people tended to go away, society life finished and so he had the brilliant idea of taking away all the seats on the floor of the hall, where the expensive people usually sat and letting people come in and stand there and walk around and have a very informal experience of concert-going. The name ‘Proms’ is an abbreviation of ‘Promenade concerts’ and it basically means that people are able to walk around and stand during the music.

  How long do the Proms last?

N   The Proms lasts for two months in the summer, from the middle of July to the middle of September and during that period there’s one concert every day. Two concerts on many days, three concerts on some days. So it’s a very very intense period of music-making and people buy season tickets in order to be able to attend all of the concerts, whether they do or not, very few people attend actually all of them, except me, and they come and they queue during the day in order to get the best places in the floor of the hall where they stand.

  World-class musicians perform at the Proms for much lower fees than they would expect to receive. Why do you think that is?

N   I think the Proms has an absolutely unique atmosphere that’s what orchestras and conductors and performers who come here say. And so people do want to come and perform. What you get at the Proms is a wonderful mixture of total informality and total concentration. So that although people don’t dress up to come to the Proms, they behave how they want, they actually absolutely listen to the music and that is a feature that so many conductors and orchestras really comment on – the level of concentration is absolutely amazing.

B. Listen to part 2. Answer the questions.

What does he say about…?

1   Princess Diana’s funeral

2   Sir Georg Solti and the Verdi Requiem

3   Colin Davies

4   Short ride in a fast machine

5   Simon Rattle and the Rite of Spring

6   a Radio 4 interview


 They changed the concert programme for that day and put in the Fauré Requiem.

 He was going to conduct the Verdi Requiem later that season. He had been a friend of Diana’s and wanted to dedicate the piece to her memory. But a week later he also died.

3   After Solti’s death, Colin Davies conducted the Verdi Requiem and dedicated it to the memory of Diana and Solti.

4   The title of a piece of music by John Adams that had been programmed for the last night of the Proms and which they had to change (because Diana had been killed after a short ride in a fast car).

5   He was conducting this piece and, in a very quiet moment at the beginning, a mobile phone started ringing. He stopped the piece, looked angrily at the person, and then started from the beginning again.

6   Sir Nicholas Kenyon was interviewed on the BBC the next day about this incident, and in the middle of the interview his phone rang.


  There must have been many truly memorable concerts during your time as director of the Proms. Could you tell us about one of them?

N   The death of Princess Diana was particularly difficult because of course she lived just across the road in Kensington Palace from where the Proms happened in the Royal Albert Hall. We changed some programmes to make them more appropriate. On the day of her funeral, we put in Fauré’s Requiem to the programme.

Very oddly we had programmed two or three requiems in that last two weeks of the season and they fitted very very well. We then lost another major figure of the musical world, the conductor Sir Georg Solti who was to have conducted the Verdi Requiem on the last Friday of the season and he had been a very good friend of Princess Diana and indeed had rung me up just after Diana’s death to say that he wanted to dedicate this Verdi Requiem to her memory. As it turned out, he died just a week later and so another conductor, Colin Davies, took over that Verdi Requiem and dedicated it to both of them and it was a fantastically charged atmosphere in the hall. I can’t remember such an electric occasion as that.

  I understand there was also another poky coincidence in the programme at the time of Diana’s death? Could you tell us about it?

N   A wonderful American composer called John Adams had written an absolutely wonderful piece which we were going to do on the last night of the Proms in 1977. Unfortunately, I mean it could have been called absolutely anything this piece, it’s a whirling abstract piece of fanfare music. Unfortunately he had called it Short ride in a fast machine. And so it was perfectly obvious from the first moment that we had to take that piece out and change the programme.

  Are there any embarrassing or amusing experiences you remember?

N   One of the things that was a real challenge to the Proms was the arrival of the mobile phone, because in the beginning people didn’t know how to use them, when to switch them off and the Albert Hall is a very very big space and mobile phones would go off in concerts and it could be very embarrassing. Usually, because they were in the middle of the music, conductors just ignored them and people got embarrassed and switched them off. But there was one particular incident that was just so awful because Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring starts with a very very exposed quiet bassoon solo and Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic making one of their first appearances together at the Proms had just begun that piece when a mobile phone went off very loudly in the stalls and Simon Rattle stopped the bassoonist and turned round and glared at this person in the stalls and there was a round of applause and everything.

So anyway, it restarted and the performance was a spectacular success and it was wonderful. But this was such an incident, that he had actually stopped it, that it became the subject of a lot of media attention and there were paragraphs in the papers and I had to go and be interviewed the next day at home for a Radio 4 programme about mobile phones going off in concerts, and in the middle of this interview, my own phone went off and it’s a wonderfully classic little bit of tape. My embarrassment at the same thing happening to me.

Exercise 2

A. You’re going to listen to five people talking about music festivals. Write the speaker’s number next to the festival(s) they have been to.

1 Anne   2 Jordan   3 Mike   4 Ray   5 Harley

Bath blues festival   ___

The Big Chill   ___

Glastonbury   ___

Isle of Wight festival   ___

Reading music festival   ___

Rock festival in Ohio   ___

B. Listen again. Which speaker…?

1   went to a festival with members of their family

2   doesn’t know the name of the festival they went to

3   has very clear memories of the experience

4   went to a festival where there were a lot of people

5   didn’t sleep at all



Bath blues festival   4 (Ray)

The Big Chill   5 (Harley)

Glastonbury   4 (Mike)

Isle of Wight festival   1 (Anne)

Reading music festival   4 (Ray)

Rock festival in Ohio   2 (Jordan)


1 Harley   2 Jordan   3 Ray

4 Anne   5 Mike


I = interviewer, A = Anne, J = Jordan, M = Mike, R = Ray, H = Harley


  Have you ever been to a music festival?

A   Isle of Wight in the 70s.

  What was it like?

A   There were just thousands and thousands of people just chilling out doing whatever you wanted to do. And it was just great fun – there was music, dancing, a great memory actually.


 Have you ever been to a music festival?

J   Yes, we have a rock festival back home in Ohio that we go to, a lot of my friends and I go to.

 What’s it like?

J   I don’t know what it’s called but it’s just like a whole bunch of alternative music, it’s like two days long and you all go and it’s just a fun time – all outside. There’s a ton of people and they’re all usually younger, from like college age usually, and they have a whole bunch of stages set up, and there’s just bars in different places, and you can just go and hang out and listen to some music.


   Have you ever been to a music festival?

M   Yes, I went to Glastonbury.

   What was it like?

M   Incredibly muddy, but great fun, absolutely so much fun, I didn’t get any sleep at all, it was so much fun.


  Have you ever been to a music festival?

R   Yes, not for many years. When I was much younger I went to Bath, Bath music blues festival, I’ve been to Reading music festival. I can’t remember which other ones I’ve been to, but yes, in the 1970s and early 80s I went to quite a few.

  What were they like?

R   From a 57-year-old’s point of view? Well, at the time they were really exciting. I can remember a long journey down to Bath, sleeping in a field, I can remember expensive food, waiting up all night to the see the band that you wanted to see and then falling asleep. I can remember being taken back to sleep in somebody’s tent then waking up and realizing we were in the wrong tent, and had no idea whose tent we were in the next morning. I can remember feeling slightly sort of sick and hungry all the time I was there, but yeah, it was good, it was exciting.


  Have you ever been to a music festival?

H   No. Oh yeah, actually, The Big Chill? Yeah, we went to the Big Chill.

  What was it like?

H   Yeah, it was really good. I went with my dad and my sister, we went in a camper van. So we camped and yeah, it was good.

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