Normally, my feelings towards classical music are neutral, but this concert was incredible.

Before the concert had even started, it was easy to see that there was more to this than straight classical music. There was an enormous percussion section, which was later manned by 7 percussionists in total, which gave a glimpse of the wonder to come. I was also slightly surprised by the bass guitar on stage. The average age in the audience was much younger than any other 'classical' concert I had been to. The night started as it intended to continue, with Aaron Copland's Fanfare to the Common Man. This was filled with energy and plenty of brass. I recognised the piece having heard it before, but hearing and seeing it live was a different experience all together.

Next was another modern piece by Graeme Koehne - Powerhouse. It also used a large brass section, and was fast moving and exciting. The percussion was magnificent and the entire piece was very rhythmic. It was short, sweet and wasn't dragged out at all, which is my usual objection to classical pieces.

Before the interval was Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances, taken straight from the musical and arranged by him in 1961. I am a great fan of West Side Story and not only have the music on my iPod, I have seen and heard them so many times I can recite the lyrics by heart. The dances were also fast-moving and energetic, with strong themes and a very busy stage. They added in the clicks, shouts and even the whistle for effect. Then there were various dances from the dance scenes, which were all very dynamic. There was yet another contrast as they began a very jazzy piece called Cool, which has a strong syncopated rhythm and lots of brass and percussion, which bears very little relation to any 'classical' music I've ever heard. The tragic finale was very sad and calmer than the other pieces. The dances were all very contrasting to each other, and arranged by Bernstein very effectively. It was also interesting watching the conductor, Vladimir Jurowski, as he seemingly attempted to have a kung-fu fight with the invisible ninjas surrounding him. He was radiating and giving the pieces even more energy

After the interval came the piece de resistance - Excite! itself. This was a selection of six very different pieces, which had been composed by Eugene Skeef and Richard Bissill. It was designed to represent London, as a city, as a culture and as a way of life. It was less of a piece of music, and more a spectacle. The poor conductor not only had an entire Philharmonic Orchestra to control, consisting of almost 100 musicians, he had another 180 singers from the choir to command, making for an incredibly busy stage. In addition to this there were various images of London projected onto the ceiling and walls around the stage. The Fanfare was very dramatic and full of vitality, with trumpet and percussion solos, and a jazz piano. There was a very different piece which began with 3 men effectively beat-boxing to a syncopated rhythm. This moved into a song with very meaningful, if difficult to comprehend, words. Luckily the words were in the programme so it was easy to follow. The pieces were dominated by the wind and brass. The percussion was very distinctly African, with drums and shakers. There were various other pieces, of which my favourite was Prayer for London. It sounded like something straight out of Chicago, with jazzy music and a strong male voice over the top.

There were two more pieces, The Miracle and The Finale. The Miracle was very different to all the other pieces, with a much calmer lighter feel. The Finale really was incredible, with sounds emerging from every corer of the stage. It was exuberant, radiating with passion, excitement and energy. As usual, there was a strong percussive beat to the music. The brass was powerful, the music irrepressible. The end was a fiesta, with the choir providing crowd noises. The energy radiating from that stage, the orchestra, the choir, the conductor, was phenomenal. The only criticism I could possibly make of the project was that there were pauses between each movement. Having lived in London my whole life (although that's not really all that long), I can tell you that between different cultures and aspects of the city, it doesn't stop, it's just intertwined as one incredible city.

Overall it was an awe-inspiring performance by everyone involved, with more energy than anything I have ever experienced. Excite! was an aptly named concert, and to sum it all up in one word:


Lisa, Age 13

Lisa went to Excite! at the Southbank Centre on 7th June 2008