(Photo – R Carter)
Over recent years the breadth of music included throughout each season has greatly expanded. As part of the ongoing mission of the Proms, to make quality music available to a large cross section of society this is to be applauded. The capacity audience, including the number of true promenaders, was testament to that.
This was the first half of a double bill presenting the two “Want” albums (originally released 2003/4) by the combined forces of the acclaimed singer-songwriter (and multi-instrumentalist) and the BBC Concert Orchestra under Sarah Hicks’ brilliant direction.
Rufus seemed very much at ease as he presented each song, sometimes with humorous introduction, sometimes seamlessly moving from one song to another. This evening, for too short a time I was allowed to enter into Rufus’ world. His voice is remarkable. Unusually operatic for someone operating in the world of popular music, his wide range and ability to project and sustain brings an unusual depth to the music. His music encompasses a range of popular styles with influences from the classic musicals to blues and jazz. Beautiful and often unpredictable melodies are employed as well as sometimes hard to define rhythms. Instruments are employed to maximum effect, from the stripped back piano or guitar only accompaniments or the addition of delicate, shimmering strings, isolated tuned percussion or strident brass.
Songs ranged from the heartfelt Natasha to the gently satirical Oh what a world. A variety of topics and extremely varied styles sit together on this album.
For me there was a notable interplay between the magic – moments like the shift from monochrome to colour in The Wizard of Oz – and the humanity of the songs. Some were poignant, many asked questions, but my overall impression was that they are a celebration of life.
Orchestra and singer worked so well together. RW made much of the importance of Sarah Hicks’ direction and also paid tribute to the players and the arrangers. This was a wonderful showcase for the Proms and for the power of music and its ability to connect and to transport.