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Moon & Stars

There is something special about sitting in the Royal Albert Hall during the BBC Proms. It’s not just the tradition, the atmosphere created by the variety of audiences, or the music itself; it's the combination of all of these things that makes the Proms stand out. An event of events is something that one savours and respects, and it also has the power to make you feel connected to hundreds of thousands of people listening at home on BBC Radio 3.

One of the more relaxed parts of the Proms calendar is the late-night programme, and Prom 15, Moon and Stars, had the added distinction of offering the audience a chance to hear all 9,999 pipes of the Grand Organ (affectionally called "the voice of Jupiter" by its builders), which was played by organist and TikTok star Anna Lapwood in what was also her Proms debut. The confidence Lapwood showed during her interview with BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor was remarkable considering her parents were in attendance and celebrating their 37th Wedding Anniversary. When one is doing something one loves, nerves seem to really take a back seat.

McGregor and Lapwood spoke about the role of colour that each piece in Moon and Stars has, and imagining classical music in this way isn’t hard when the Grand Organ is being played. Each note creates an abundance of colour that powerfully carries the listener on a bevy of sound that truly awakens something deep inside them, it is a connection to something one can't describe. Moon and Stars is more about distance, freedom, and perhaps even longing to get away, and Lapwood's programme, at its heart, is also about celebrating the mystery of the cosmos. One can be up in the air (Glass) or firmly planted on the ground, looking up (Limina Luminis).

It seemed apt that the opening pieces for Prom 15 were composed by three women: Kristina Arakelyan's Star Fantasy, Ghislaine Reece-Trapp's In Paradisum, and Olivia Belli's Limina Luminis, / Thresholds of Light, which was not only written especially for Lapwood but also its world premiere performance. At times wildly different, these pieces offered a delicate introduction to the journey we were about to take. Lapwood was clearly having fun with the selection, and Florence Price's "Retrospection (An Elf on a Moonbeam)" was full of humour and offered a nice break between the more subdued pieces that came before and after it.


Philip Glass’s Mad Rush was soul-destroying beautiful; this was a moment one becomes reflective and sees a clarity of the heart, the soul, this near-indescribable feeling of being resoundingly emotive. Glass pulls us forward, launches his listener towards the stars, and takes us away from our own comfort, our home, our security, and into the unknown. We’re out there in the vastness of space, free and alone, but assured that this is where we need to be.

Lapwood played this piece with such delicate abandon, perhaps best described as if one were sitting in a chair on a rocket ship and the countdown had begun. There is no turning back, no getting away, and definitely no changing your mind; you are here, the boosters are going, and, over the heavy beating of your heart, you hear "One," and like the speed of light, you are shooting towards the atmosphere. You close your eyes, and a million images flash through your mind as your body trembles with the vibration. And then you break through into outer space, you open your eyes, and you see a vastness you never imagined. You don’t look back; you can't look back; you can only look forward.

It would be unforgivable for a TikTok star to not take advantage of their setting to create a memorable "social media" moment for their audiences in attendance, and during Interstellar Suite, No. 2, Cornfield Chase Lapwood didn't disappoint. Ahead of the second section, Lapwood asked the audience to use the torches on their phones, and the resulting effect was breathtaking. As the piece began, one couldn’t help but look around the hall, and as each note was played, it was a powerfully emotional moment, and with the crescendo, the whole hall became a disco-ball of stars. It was more meaningful because it was something you had to be there for, and in this age of mass media consumption, it’s confronting to know that moments like this can be created that are unique and special.

"...yet its popularity has never taken away the significance and beauty of the music. I sat there in the Royal Albert Hall hearing Lapwood's arrangement..."

The ever-popular Clair de Lune by Debussy Lapwood creates another moment in her Proms debut that truly captivates the listener. Clair de Lune is one of Debussy’s most popular pieces and has been used in countless TV commercials, programmes, and films, yet its popularity has never taken away the significance and beauty of the music. I sat there in the Royal Albert Hall hearing Lapwood's arrangement, which injected something new, a fresh perspective that allowed her audience to take a deep sign in the way one does when a calm, almost contemplative moment overtakes us.

With the star of Prom 15 being Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar Suit (Part 1, Stay, Part 2, Cornfield Chase, and Part 3, No Time For Caution), it is understandable why Zimmer was selected. He’s a master composer, and his work with Christopher Nolan is as unique as John Williams’ relationship with Steven Spielberg, but part of me thought that this would have been a monumental opportunity to have selected a woman composer: Ella Macens, Judith Weir, or Mica Levi. This is a trade-off at the Proms; experimental or little-known pieces are rare, though they do happen. As in this Prom, three women composers were chosen to showcase their effective and touching work at the start, but the draw was Zimmer with the added comfort and familiarity of Debussy.

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