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Proms at the Palace – Classic Concert - Party at the Palace – Pop Concert

It has been a great weekend here in London, full of emotion, particularly in regards to the Pop Concert. It was a perfect excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the entire extravaganza around me.  Most of the shops in London had festive decorations and even some of London’s normally red buses were painted gold. A ‘Jubilee’ bride chose to have her wedding cress made in the form of a Union Jack, it was an extremely joyful and patriotic weekend, with the Union Jack almost everywhere.  I remember the Sex Pistols sailing down the Thames on Jubilee Day in 1977 and they re-released their CD The Jubilee, for this year’s celebration. There were comic programmes on TV with funny impressions of the Royal family; all commonwealth countries issued special stamps, and many parades, even excerpts from the famous Notting Hill Carnival and also some Hell’s Angels on their bikes.   What I found most wonderful to see was the Queen travelling in the famous gold coach – probably not as comfortable inside in comparison to its beauty.  But above all the most incredible was the way BBC synchronised the singing of All We Need is Love from all the various towns and villages of the UK. I don’t think any other TV organisation in the world could have done such great job, nor can any other country do pageantry as well.  The enormous amount of trucks, and cables around Buckingham Palace was unbelievable.  I saw a TV camera follow the Queen in and out of many places for hours.  All this was put together to celebrate The Queen; she is a great icon; her image and reality are virtually inseparable.  Her figure is symbolic; we really don’t know much of her private life behind her public mask.  I love her husband’s, Prince Philip, gaffes, because I love gaffes too and to see him doing it gives me an excuse to forgive myself. He has a huge sense of humour and jokes out his gaffes with the word ‘dontopedalogy’ - the art of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it.

For me the celebration was about the concerts. It opened with a classic concert at Buckingham Palace: “Prom at the Palace” – “Party at the Palace”. The Queen looked relaxed and she seemed to enjoy the music.  For the first time Camilla was there, which means that the Queen publicly acknowledges her relationship with her son by inviting her to sit in the Royal Box. The concert was free.  The “special invited audience” was allowed to picnic in the Palace gardens.  They were each given a coolbag hamper of a three-course meal and a small bottle of champagne.  The guests were mostly matrons of Middle England, some in formal dinner jackets and cocktail dresses some in jeans and T-shirts.  The majority of guests had a Union Jack depicted somewhere on their clothing. For those in attendance, it must have been almost as thrilling to be there as winning the lottery, was millions applied for tickets in the ballot but only 12,000 received them. 

The concert started with Anniversary Fanfare by William Walton (1902-1983) played by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, showing the association between music and monarchy.  Then came the soprano Kiri Te Kanawa that said she was very happy to be representing the Commonwealth, as she is from New Zealand.   She said, “You think you are used to playing at a concert but it wasn’t the same at all. You look at the royal box and suddenly realise what a great event it is.”  She also sang Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim at Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981.  Here at the Prom at the Palace, she sang a beautiful rendition of Summertime by George Gershwin (1898-1937) from Porgy and Bess.  She also sang Mozart’s (1756-1791) Dove sono from The Marriage of Figaro.  The audience loved the clarinettist, Julian Bliss, (13 years old) who gave a fantastic performance of Andre Messager’s (1853-1929) Solo de Concours.   Ashley Wass accompanied her on the piano.  Being a Brazilian, I shed tears for Bachianas Brasileiras No1 – Preludio (Modinha) HeitorVilla-Lobos (1887-1959).  It was played by the great man Mstislav Rostropovich, (who turned 75 this year, a birthday celebrated both at the Palace and with an emotional Gala at the Barbican Center) on the cello and accompanied by the Cellos of the London Symphony Orchestra. Also taking part in the Jubilee was the famous operatic couple, Robert Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu (in stage dress to die for!).  They chose Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s (1858-1924) Tosca –for Gheorghiu E lucevan le stelle.  They then sang together Verdi’s (1813-1910) Brindisi (Drinking Song) from La traviata, accompanied by the conductor Sir Andrew Davis.  All three of them toasted the Queen in the Royal Box with their glasses of champagne.  Davis always makes me laugh with his funny way and you can see he enjoys conducing.  The baritone, Sir Thomas Allen, sang Gioachino Rossini’s (1792-1868) The Barber of Seville, a great favourite of mine. He also sang The Yeoman of England, from Edward German’s (1862-1936) Merrie England.   What I found marvellous was the transparent stage in the garden of the Palace strategically placed so that the green of trees and the small lake could be seen.   What a delicious place to listen to music!   Handel’s (1685-1759)’s music consisted of the Coronation Anthem from Zadok, the Priest followed with Music for the Royals Firewords, all accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  It was completed with a real firework finale, which were so impressive we all rose to our feet in appreciation. The concert closed with the Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory (when you know the history of this country you come to understand how perfectly this piece illustrates proud people of this nation) sung by the entire company of artists.  It was altogether a most memorable occasion. What an evening!!!!! 

But the very best, at least for me, was the Pop concert seen on TV by 20 million people around the world plus the one million (including myself) actually at Buckingham Palace.  It was wonderful as the Palace changed colours throughout the evening.  And, as you can image, the atmosphere was fantastic; it was a touching experience.  I enjoyed myself; I feel that life has given me so much that I can not complained about a thing.  For I am blessed, as the only thing I enjoy most is music and my favourite City is London.   I was experiencing all this, which was followed by an unforgettable display of fireworks and the incredible feat of the Queen lighting the Beacon.

I consider Monday 3 June 2002, a day in my life that will never be forgotten. When Brian May, on the roof of the Palace, was playing on his guitar God Save The Queen, I was so moved that I have decided to apply for British citizenship.  I have been away from Brazil for more then 30 years and feel my allegiance is to the ‘Queen’ (the Pop Group) and to this country.  Gawd bless ’er Majesty.  “That’s real Cockney” says my cultural friend Georgina.  So to be honest, I feel just as connected to British culture as I do to Brazilian.  I love British Pop and Rock.  I remember when I was a teenager going to the Rio de Janeiro radios on the Saturday afternoon for Rock and Roll and a kind of kareoke, imitating an American rock group of the 60’s, singing like A Star in Your Eyes. It was love at first sight for me.  I also love Elvis and all the Motown hits. But to be at the palace and to be listening to Ozzy Osbourne end his singing of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid saying, “God save The Queen. I love you all.” far surpassed my teenage memories of the Rio de Janeiro radio. (Let us not forget the irony of this all, for Ozzy once bit off the head of a bat and while wearing a dress he urinated on the Alamo! It’s so funny to me to see him at the Palace and to see the Princess Royal really get into his music.  HAAA!!!)  Phil Collins played and, as always, he was FANTASTIC!!!!!!!   Camilla Parker Bowles joined in the song You Can’t Hurry Love; presumably, the lyrics have been a great comfort to her over the years.  Atomic Kitten sang Dancing in the Street. Annie Lennox was fabulous, portraying the real battle between the old and new orders of British Pop. Joe Cocker gave a masterful performance of With a Little Help From My Friends.  Tony Bennett was just ok. Brian Wilson sang his Beach Boys songs God Only Knows and Good Vibrations (the Pop highlight of the night).  His performance was a bit stiff and awkward, but to see him on stage was great; he also sang a moving duet with Eric Clapton. Elton John was actually in Scandinavia on his tour but BBC filmed him in Queen Victoria’s Music Room at Buckingham Palace; a lot of people thought he was actually there. The two remaining ‘Queen’ musicians made a rare appearance singing a melody from We Will Rock You (a musical based on the group).  The musical, which is currently playing in London’s West End at the Dominion Theatre, is produced by Robert de Niro. I know a great deal about ‘Queen’ because my friend Rodrigo Coimbra Antunes is a ‘Queen’ fanatic; he sends me a lot of their material.  In fact, Rodrigo is such a huge ‘Queen’ fan he has created a website based on them (http://www.raconline.hpg.com.br/) As I was listening to them I thought of HIM (Freddy Mercury) who is no longer with us. Still without the presence of Freddy Murphy to sing, the songs had the power to annihilate distance in large spaces.  The ‘Queen’ music is very much alive. This was an orgasmic concert for me; I mean better than sex or anything else.  To see all my idols after all the crazy things they have done; I am shocked that they have managed to keep themselves very much alive; (what’s even more shocking is that they have all managed to keep their own hair!!)  But it was their music (not their hair) that brought me enjoyment, along with a heaping amount of memories.  It’s been such a long time that I’ve sung and danced for a whole concert, but I was “rocking” with the rest of them.  Maybe I ought to be embarrassed but I am not.  Darlings, at my age all I want is to have a little fun….just as the song goes “girl’s just want to have fun”.

Oh gosh, the tribute that Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton performed together, Here Comes the Sun, drove me wild!  Paul was looking younger and his playing was incredible –it’s been quite sometime since I have seen him looking so good.   I sat on the Queen’s back porch and listened to him play Blackbird. He finished by singing All we need is love, the Royals and other participants of the concert joined him on stage. Prince Charles then read a tribute to his mother, which was then followed by everyone singing Hey Jude.  While we joined together in song, the Queen lit the fireworks and beacon.  This “celebrating with fire” fascinated me. But in UK they celebrated with beacon in St. James’s Palace, an original beacon site, dating back to 1588.  A National Beacon, the one, which was lit by the Queen, was sponsored by British Gas and is located at the Victoria Memorial.  I was very curious because as I had never seen a beacon before. Beacons were lit from Mount Kenya, Antarctica, Nepal, New Zealand, and Canada; there were more then 1,800 beacons throughout the UK, the Channel Island and the Commonwealth making this the largest chain of beacons ever for a royal occasion. Beacons have been used for centuries as a system of communications.  During Queen Victoria’s reign, they were used as a mean of celebration.  In 1588 one was used to warn the Spanish Armada; they were along the cost on church towers and high hill and were used to signal alarms. In recent years has been used to commemorate the Millennium, the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995, The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and for this evening, The Golden Jubilee 2002.

The best view for the firework spectacular at Buckingham Palace was probably the London Eye that was floodlit in gold. It was a glorious day, but I paid a very high price for it.  I sleep on the pavement for seven hours to get in, queued for one hour to use the loo, another hour to buy a not so tasty sandwich, and I had to walk for over an hour to get home because there was no public transportation running.  BUT it was all worth it!!! What a party it has been!!!!!!!!

From a rock-n-roll girl, who has spent the day rocking with the best of them. 

Verinha Ottoni




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