This would be a Prom like no other, we were told at the outset. And indeed it was, thanks to its unconventional auditorium: the low-ceilinged top floor of a multi-storey car-park in downtown Peckham, open to the winds and all the sounds of the city. The award-winning Multi-Story Orchestra – they pointedly drop the ‘e’ – pride themselves on engaging with new audiences in places where classical music doesn’t reach, but this event was crammed with the eager-beaver new-music brigade in festive holiday mood.
The Proms at Peckham – photo credit: BBC/Mark Allan
Since the concrete space has an abattoir acoustic, nobody would dream of putting on Baroque string quartets there, but this Prom had been designed for it: three works celebrating Steve Reich’s joyful celebration of the machine age and his equally joyful response to the graceful repetitions of Javanese gamelan, and all with amplification kept down to a civilized level.
First up was Vermont Counterpoint, a solo piece played by flautist Hannah Grayson in which live phrases were sampled and given back in an intricate sonic tapestry. When a train rumbled past with hooter blaring and brakes squealing, the music actually seemed enriched. Then came Eight Lines (two pianos plus a big ensemble) followed by Music for a Large Ensemble: under Christopher Stark’s direction, the youthful orchestra played a blinder.