And The Ride Home was the Best Part of the Evening
Last evening my husband and I attended the Diamond Jubilee Royal Gala Concert at Royal Albert Hall. Don’t get me wrong from the title; the concert was lovely so I’ll start at the beginning. It was a long day for both of us as my husband was in meetings almost all day and working on specs which is, to me anyway, at best, hard to keep awake while looking at dozens of drawings. I’d been running errands all day, doing some quilting while trying to keep the cats from sitting on the quilt (it is impossible to move the quilt under the needle if I’m trying to move one or two cats along with it!), cleaning, doing business on line, etc. etc. So both of us were tired before we left the house.
We had to go into London by train and I had forgotten my senior rail card (yes, heavy sigh, I am that old) so we both had to pay full price for the time period (not as bad as going in the early morning rush hour). We get there in plenty of time for the concert but we were late for our reservation at Elgar Restaurant inside Royal Albert Hall. They were able to seat us anyway.
Elgar Restaurant does not win any awards for ambience or looks! They had so many tables squeezed into the restaurant that my hubby had to pull the table further away from the wall for me to be able to get to my seat and then push it back in so he could sit in his seat without bumping the person at the table behind us. However, the food was delicious and good food can make you overlook a lot of other faults.
We finished in time for a stop at the toilet which had a queue out the door which seems to be common worldwide. However, explain to me why there were two gents’ toilets within sight of each other practically and only one ladies toilet that I saw on that floor! Poor hubby then has to walk down to the ground floor to pick up a program which we had forgotten.
We’re seated at Gate 4, Circle P, Row 5 and Seats 6 & 7. Oh my gosh, pretty much the “nose bleed” section. It was very high up and a long way to the ground floor. Also, unfortunately for us, we could only see half of the orchestra and leaning forward barely got us a glimpse of the guest soloists. My bad. I had chosen the seats because we’d never been there, it was a musical concert so I figured seeing wasn’t as important as hearing, and they were cheap.
Royal Albert Hall is magnificent. It is in a circle with rows and rows of red chairs and red fabric and red lights but while it might sound like I’m beginning to describe a bawdy house, it is very beautiful and very tastefully done and the acoustics are fairly good. At one end, behind the orchestra, were the huge pipes of a pipe organ. Not sure I’d ever seen pipes that big. Would be very interested in going to hear that. The seats weren’t too very comfortable though, a little on the snug side and not because we are large people. A lot of the people around us who were definitely skinny people were fidgety too. And as we were on the end of the row, every time someone came for our row, we had to stand or step out to let them into the row. Stepping out of the row, for me, meant hang onto the railing as I am a teeny bit afraid of falling from such heights and could picture myself rolling down the aisle and bouncing over the railing to the floor below and that would put a damper on the festivities.
The concert started on time with the conductor arriving and the guest soprano who was also the presenter. Immediately the orchestra started into “God Save the Queen” which we didn’t know but everyone else did so stood and started singing. That is so impressive when a crowd of people sing the national anthem and love doing it and aren’t just mouthing the words to get to the ball game. (Not putting my country down as we love the national anthem too but sometimes people would rather not sing and watch the game). So a very good start.
The program was music we recognized and loved. We had the soprano who sang a lot, a guest trumpeter who was magnificent, and a guest clarinetist who was also awesome. The guest violinist had been taken ill so the first chair played the violin solo and I doubt if I would have been able to tell the difference between her and the absent guest soloist. Honestly, we didn’t like the soprano. She sang most of the songs in English rather than the language in which they were written. Her first song consisted of one word; “Halleluiah” which I never knew could be spread out over so many notes for a single syllable or two. She had a fine voice I believe, we just didn’t care for it. Everyone else did so that’s fine.
In the royal box, we are assuming, was Prince Andrew, as he is the Patron. There were several women in that box too and for the sake of being able to say “I saw them” we are going to pretend that Princess Eugenia and Princess Beatrice were with her father. I say assuming because it was a long way from our seats to the royal box on the opposite side of the hall. We must remember to bring binoculars with us to any possible royal sightings events from now on.
As I mentioned at the beginning, we were very tired and we’d just had a very nice and full meal and it was a tad warm so far up in the rafters so both of us were struggling to stay awake. Listening to music is a well-known way to relax and help you fall asleep and it certainly did! In our defense, we weren’t the only ones though who were nodding a bit. There were a lot of children in our area ages from about 6 to 18 but they were all remarkably well behaved. Probably most of them music students.
Gotta love England. No matter what the event or the venue, during the break, everyone runs off to buy ice cream in these little cups that come with a spoon and everything. Beer, wine, cokes, other snacks appeared as people came back from the break. Can’t even imagine such a thing in the states at something like a concert celebrating a diamond jubilee.
Finally the concert is over and we started down the stairs before the final bows were finished. A whole lot of people walking towards the subway and we got to it just in time to hop on and stand. Changing at Westminster, we were able to have a lean bench for the one stop back to Waterloo. As we came out of the subway, I saw that our next train was 2233 I thought and it was 2231 then so we hotfooted it down to track 13 and ran through and jumped in the first door. Luckily it was actually 2239 so we would have been fine. We would have had to go through the first class coach or sit in the last two seats together facing backwards so we took those seats.
Seated already was an older gentleman who was reading. He promptly put down his book and started talking to us. This was indeed the best part of the evening. We talked and laughed the entire journey, which unfortunately was only about ½ hour away but he was quite an interesting man and funny and very interested in us. He had also been to the concert. Retired gentleman for the last 20 years so we asked for advice on how to stay busy since my husband is fast approaching his retirement. We talked about traveling, about trains, about places he had been in the States and places where we all had been and the changes and the jubilee and the weather and the driving and the concert and gardening and everything. It was so nice to meet him and we so enjoyed the ride home that we didn’t nod off once and the ½ hour seemed like only about 10 minutes. It is always so much fun to meet an Englishman who is gregarious and happy to share experiences and happy to meet us, even if it is just in passing.
So a very good evening all around, start to finish, even if we had to fight to stay awake for a part of it. Another Jubilee even chalked up.