Poms At The Proms

Summer in London? Go to the Proms, of course! A family friend, Daniel Kidane will open this year’s Last Night at the Proms with his world premiere Woke, a nine minute composition to be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. No doubt the audience will be wide awake for that. Prom is short for Promenade Concert, it’s origin was concerts held outdoors in London’s pleasure gardens. Today, promming means the use of the 1,000 standing places inside the Royal Albert Hall, for which ticket prices are considerably cheaper, at £6. It’s a great way to attend otherwise sold-out concerts, but you’ll need to queue on the morning of the concert, tickets on sale from 9am. It would be a dream of course to be invited to sit in the BBC Radio 3 box, a ticket would easily fetch £6,000. Can you imagine the sound clarity being right there? The Proms is the world’s greatest and oldest classical music festival, held over eight weeks in central London every summer since 1895, yes, even during the two Great Wars. Music lifts our spirits, you have to have great music to win the great wars.

I once went on a holiday with Daniel, in Paris in fact. All expenses paid for him, why not, he is a celebrity. It is rather rare for me to spend my holiday with one, as rare as hen’s teeth you could say. We had a great time, even though it was on a tight budget. I was brought up by my Ningbonese mother in Penang, sorry about that, Daniel. You see, Ningbo people (of Wu Han ethnicity) are also known as the Mingzhou; Ningbo being once the capital of the Ming Prefecture. Ningbo people are also “fondly” known as the Chinese youtai (Jews). The Chinese like being Jewish. Jewishness is short and sweet for a person who values education, is tight-pursed, and has business acumen. Penangites aka Penang-lang have gained an unshakeable reputation as tight-fisted. Someone I know only recently gave up the practice of BYO eggs to the Char Koay Teow street vendor to save 10 sen. What? Why use a 30W globe? 5W will do nicely. Just yesterday, a Penang-lang refused to pay 20 sen for a bag at a food stall, but let’s say he was being environmentally friendly. Another thing, foods past their expiry date do not mean they are inedible, e.g. chinese tea, salted fish, kiam-chai and dried fruits. A lifelong discipline honed in Penang coupled with her Ningbo dna, meant my mother bore the great traits of the two cities, Appreciating Bargains. Thriftiness was a necessary way of life for anyone who lived through the 2nd Sino-Japanese War in China and the Japanese occupation of Penang during WW2. At 96, she naturally still appreciates bargains. I am grateful she imparted such a sensible habit to me. I described Ma as thrifty, it is right not to be wasteful; but perhaps as an admission of guilt, my Penang-lang friend said he was frugal. Frugality requires a person to use everything as little as possible, that to me is wasteful of life. So, Daniel, I hope you understand that it is not how much we spend on our holiday but how we spend it. It is magnanimous of you after our holiday to want to compose a piano trio for me or was it a cello duet? You know I love the cello. Daniel, if you don’t mind, can the theme be based on 432? My father’s favourite number at the bookies. He won a tidy sum of $20,000 with that number just before I was born, a very good omen. 432, or D,C, B will be the recurring theme. Pa passed away in 2007, I want to dedicate your music to him. His ashes are interred in a niche, his memorial tablet is in column 4, row 32. I think he is still smiling.

Daniel Kidane, Composer