Today’s tape opens with the Weather, followed by a trailer for The Upper Crust and The Antiques Show.
Then, the first half of the Last Night of the Proms 1998. Traditionally, the first half is a little more challenging than the second half, so I wonder what they’re going to bring us.
It opens with a crowdpleaser, the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville. I always think of this as the music from John Lasseter’s first short film The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.
Next, Baritone Thomas Hampson sings three arias. Including Figaro’s aria which, completely coincidentally, Paul Whitehouse sang parts of in yesterday’s tape. Another of those weird links between unrelated tapes.
Next it’s a new piece, by composer Hugh Wood, Variations for Orchestra.
It’s modern. That’s all I can say.
There’s a brief excursion to the Proms in the Park, here in their third year, with Paco Pena and a troupe of flamenco dancers.
However, closing the first half of the concert is a much better set of variations. No, not Andrew Lloyd Webber, it’s even better than that. It’s Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, played by Jean‐Yves Thibaudet.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th September 1998 – 19:15
After this, there’s a trailer for BBC Digital that we’ve seen before.
Then a trailer for Cold War – “the most dangerous period of all time” according to the voiceover.
There’s a trailer for programmes about the second world war.
Then, there’s the start of a programme about the reminiscences of survivors of the D-Day landings, Remembering Privates Smith and Jones.
After a little bit of this, recording switches to BBC One, catching the last few seconds of Casualty.
There’s a trailer for the new series of The X Files. And for Falling for a Dancer.
Then, the second half of the Last Night of the Proms. “Presented by James Nockerty” according to the continuity announcer.
There’s some banter between Naughtie and the host of the Hyde Park concert, Terry Wogan.
As is traditional, two prommers put a wreath on the bust of Sir Henry Wood. The chap on the right is a familiar face – John Underwood, who was a regular prommer, and infamous within my wife’s family for being a bit annoying.
Another glimpsed face in the audience is a friend of ours, Richard, who works in the BBC R&D department developing future TV technology. He would be getting married in a couple of weeks – we attended the wedding. I’ll explain the reasons I can remember that so clearly at the end of this entry.
The first piece played is Leonard Bernstein’s overture to Candide, one of my favourite pieces of music.
This is followed by Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens, a very nice choral piece.
Then, a sequences of Gershwin songs sung by Thomas Hampson.
It’s a lot of fun.He’s even joined on stage for Fascinating Rhythm by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Then it’s off to Hyde Park again, as Tasmin Little plays Paganiniana, violin variations of the same Paganini piece we heard earlier.
Then, another new piece, These Premises are Alarmed by Thomas Ades.
It’s very modern.
But then we’re into the traditional end of the concert, starting with Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 3, Land of Hope and Glory.
Then, because it hasn’t been shunted off in favour of a duller round Britain travelogue, there’s Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, which I always love listening to.
And for Rule Britannia, Thomas Hampson returns to the stage in a lovely transatlantic waistcoat.
Sir Andrew Davis gives the traditional last night speech.
He’s interrupted by Terry Wogan, who presents a platinum disc for the sales of Perfect Day, the song for last year’s Children in Need, which featured loads of singers, as well as Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony.
And the concert closes with Jerusalem and the National Anthem.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 12th September 1998 – 21:00
After this, recording continues with a trailer for Ballykissangel. And a trailer for Panorama on the Bill Clinton affair.
The Starr report on the Clinton affair was released, and the news covered the White House’s rebuttal of the report.
There’s a whole news bulletin here. BBC Genome: BBC One – 12th September 1998 – 22:40
The tape ends during the Weather.
A Personal Note
This tape was exactly 19 years ago. It’s not the first time I’ve watched tapes that coincide with the date I’m watching, but this one has a lot more significance.
I started watching this on the 7th of September. And I hadn’t quite connected the date of this tape with the events that were happening to my wife and I at the time, until I spotted our friend Richard and remembered attending his wedding.
You see, a week before this concert, on Saturday the 5th of September 1998, my wife went into very premature labour with our first child. He was due some time in December, but at this time it was only about 22.5 weeks into the pregnancy.
We were taken by ambulance to Northwick Park Hospital, which has a dedicated premature baby unit, and for the next day or so, the doctors did everything they could to try to pause the labour, hoping to give the baby some slim chance of survival. We were told that the chance of him surviving the birth at that early stage were very small. It was possible he wouldn’t breath at all, as his lungs were still growing.
By the time it got to Monday evening, the 7th, the doctors had exhausted everything they could do, and we were told that the baby would be born.
I was prepared for the worst, that he would not be able to breath at all, that he would be stillborn, but amazingly for one so small – 1lb 3oz – he did manage to take a few breaths unaided, and the doctors took him away to try to put him on ventilation to help him breath.
His name is Alexander.
He was amazingly strong for such a small baby, but in the end, he wasn’t able to fight off several infections that took hold, and it became impossible to keep intravenous medication going in someone with such small veins.
He died 13 days later. It was the week after that that we attended Richard’s wedding, which is why the coincidence of dates struck me. This tape was recorded in the middle of all that, and while it was taping I was probably at the hospital with Bernadette, sitting next to Alexander’s incubator.
It’s sometimes nice to be able to place myself very specifically when I’m watching these tapes. Sometimes the memories aren’t happy. But they are memories I wouldn’t want to lose.