This time last week we were eagerly anticipating our annual visit to the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms. Thanks to major engineering works on the West Coast Main Line we were unable to travel to London by train. No matter. On a Sunday, parking and other restrictions are often lifted and traffic is relatively light. Look how close we managed to park!
The concert itself was moving, amazing and utterly captivating. It made an immediate impact with a profound and original piece by a little-known German, Rudi Stephan. Stephan was killed in the First War just a few months later. And war, and loss, and tragedy, were the themes of this commemorative Prom, never more so than in the pre-war settings by George Butterworth (killed on the Somme, 1916) of six poems from A.E.Housman's cycle, A Shropshire Lad.
That book was - after the Bible - the most carried volume in the trenches. It's not hard to see why. The words evoke the timeless beauty of the English landscape but seem to hint darkly of the darkness and tragedy to come.
Roderick Williams (baritone) was the soloist on Sunday evening with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Manze. You can catch the performance on BBC iPlayer for the next four weeks and I'd urge you to do so, especially if the setting is unfamiliar. You'll probably not hear a better performance, ever. Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p025616k/bbc-proms-proms-extra-butterworth-six-songs-from-a-shropshire-lad-orch-p-brookes
'The lads in their hundreds...' Ludlow, seen from the castle.