The Little Proms

The Little Proms is an initiative to bring classical music to a wider audience, and, like Classical Revolution and various projects by the ever-innovative Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Little Proms presents classical music outside the traditional setting of the concert hall to make it more accessible, and to dispel the myths about classical music being elitist and exclusive.

The venue for The Little Proms is the basement of The Spice of Life, a pub on the edge of London’s Soho. There is a downstairs bar, and the audience sit around tables, rather than in serried ranks as at Wigmore Hall. People can come and go as they please, though they are asked to respect the music while it is being performed. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.

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I performed at The Little Proms for the first time on Sunday evening with my duo partner Liliana Schlaen. Lily has performed there before, but this was our debut in duo repertoire. We arrived early, as instructed, for a sound check which wasn’t really necessary. After a short warm up, we were able to sit back and wait for the event to start, while enjoying listening to the other performers warm up some of their programmes. The evening officially started at 7.30pm, with Jiva Housden and Dan Bovey, two young classical guitarists who presented a very enjoyable programme, including sonatas by Tedesca, and a suite of pieces by Couperin, originally for harpsichord.

Our set went very well, beginning with Kreisler’s dramatic Praeludium & Allegro and closing with Piazzolla’s haunting Milonga en Re, and it was great to see friends and family amongst the audience to cheer us on. As is often the way during a live performance, new things were revealed about our pieces, including a sense that we have perhaps performed the Kreisler enough for the time being and that we should turn our attention to some new repertoire. (I draw a veil over my getting lost during the first of Bartok’s Romanian Dances – an indication that it is important to run new repertoire by an informal audience ahead of a proper concert.) Afterwards we socialised with friends and the other musicians before trooping upstairs to watch Usain Bolt win the Olympic 100 metres.

The concert series is an excellent opportunity to showcase new talent, and for music students and aspiring professional musicians to perform in a more relaxed environment, perhaps ahead of a more serious performance.

The Little Proms is held on the first Sunday of every month at The Spice of Life, 6 Moor Street, Cambridge Circus, London W1 (nearest tube Leicester Square).

The Little Proms on Facebook

Liliana Schlaen & Frances Wilson – SW London-based violin & piano duo

2 thoughts on “The Little Proms”

  1. These sound great and I’d come if I didn’t live 300 miles away.

    Do you incorporate New Music into the Little Proms? It would be very much in the spirit of the Big Ones – and I bet there’s student composers out there itching to get performed.

    1. The choice of repertoire is up to the performers – we tweaked a programme we’d performed a couple of weeks ago to make it more suitable for an evening event (we dropped Pärt’s ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’). The only constraint was the timing of our set (30-40 mins).

      I think encouraging young composers is an excellent idea and I’ll definitely mention it to the organisers. It’s also a great opportunity for students to perform in an informal/intimate setting – all useful experience for the would-be professional musician.

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