The late-night Proms usually offer something very different from the regular programme, be it chamber music, jazz, or choral music. Thursday evening’s Prom was no exception to this, featuring the music of the somewhat forgotten Ivor Novello, sometimes considered the Andrew Lloyd Webber of the early 20th Century. However, unlike Lloyd Webber, Novello was also an actor an known for his stunning good looks as well his killer musicals.

Sophie Bevan and Toby Spence perform in A Glamorous Night: A Celebration of Ivor Novello at the BBC © BBC / Chris Christodoulou
Sophie Bevan and Toby Spence perform in A Glamorous Night: A Celebration of Ivor Novello at the BBC
© BBC / Chris Christodoulou

The Prom took us through the story of Novello’s life, narrated with a great sense of humour and fun by the actor Simon Callow. There was quite a lot of Callow at the beginning of the prom, but with such a wonderful voice and delivery it was a joy to listen to and never became dull.

When the Hallé Orchestra struck up, directed by Sir Mark Elder, their swooping and rich playing brought Novello’s inter-war gems to life with the perfect balance of taste and sentimentality. This music just makes you smile and the combination of Callow and Hallé only accentuated the effect, whether they were playing a rousing overture or a touching love song.

On vocals were Toby Spence and Sophie Bevan, both singing with great character and panache. Thought Spence’s voice sounded a little tired, and became somewhat harsh in the upper register, he still managed to sing with care and meaning, and avoided making these simple songs sound like an effort. Bevan was on top form, with delicately hushed pianissimos, even right in the top of her range, and a warmth and passion that brought a tear to the eye. The highlight of the evening was Bevan’s performance of “I can give you the starlight”, which was simply perfect, with high notes floated effortlessly on the air.

This was a really special evening revisiting some wonderful music by an unjustly forgotten talent. With singers, orchestra and narrator all performing so fantastically, this really was A Glamorous Night and one which you can and should revisit online!

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