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The Geordie Proms concert heads for its quarter-century

What have Michael Douglas, Keira Knightley and E.T. got to do with the North East Last Night of the Proms? David Whestone has the answers

The 23rd North East Last Night Of The Proms at the City Hall, Newcastle
The 23rd North East Last Night Of The Proms at the City Hall, Newcastle

The ‘Geordie Proms’ will be going to the movies tomorrow night as the annual festival of red, white and blue pays homage to some great soundtracks.

It will be a demonstration to the audience at Newcastle City Hall of how familiar tunes can mean different things to different people.

When the tenor Stephen Aviss steps on stage to sing the aria Questa O Quella, some audience members will be reminded of great performances of Verdi’s opera, Rigoletto.

Rather more, perhaps, will remember Michael Douglas as ruthless Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, the 1987 film which gave us one of the decade’s key phrases, “greed is good”.

Later in the programme, Stephen and Proms regular Suzanne Manuell will perform what will no doubt be a soulful version of O Soave Fanciulla.

The beautiful duet from La Boheme will send opera fans into ecstasy. Film buffs might instead think of the 2007 film Atonement which stars Keira Knightley and was partly shot on Redcar beach.

Movie-makers have always borrowed from classical music to enforce the emotional signals they are trying to convey.

Tomorrow we will hear an aria from The Barber of Seville (also used in Babe: Pig in the City) and O Fortuna from Carmina Burana (and The Hunt for Red October). We will also hear some brilliant original music commissioned for the cinema.

I forecast tears when violinist Bradley Creswick, leader of Royal Northern Sinfonia, performs the theme from Schindler’s List, composed by the brilliant John Williams.

The American musician and composer could have taken over the whole concert since his portfolio of soundtracks includes most of Steven Spielberg’s films, the Star Wars series, Superman and the first three Harry Potter films.

Tomorrow the orchestra, the English Philharmonic under the baton of David Haslam, will perform Williams’s E.T. theme.

Before the traditional Proms finale, building to Jerusalem and Auld Lang Syne, we will also get a taste of The Mission, South Pacific, The Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady and many more.

The North East Last Night of the Proms has been a popular annual event since 1990, when George Walker, from Westerhope, Newcastle, decided he wanted to “give something back” to the medical staff who had treated him for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Since George died in 2001, 13 years after the initial diagnosis of his illness, it has fallen to Rosalynde, his widow, to keep the Proms flag flying.

This she has done with energy and aplomb, aided by her family, volunteers from the charity Nepac (North East Promenaders Against Cancer) and singers like tenor Stephen, baritone James Cleverton and sopranos Janice Cairns and the aforementioned Suzanne.

All will be present to entertain tomorrow night along with orchestra and massed choir.

Rosalynde says the Proms concert, which now takes place in memory of George, has raised £1.35m for cancer care and research throughout the region.

Beneficiaries include hospices across the North East, Crawford House, which provides accommodation for the families of children being treated at the RVI, and the accomplished team researching into blood disorders at Newcastle University.

One team member, Dr Venetia Bigley, who has been supported by Nepac, has recently earned a clinical fellowship from the Wellcome Trust in acknowledgement of her important research findings.

The movie-themed 24th North East Last Night of the Proms takes place at Newcastle City Hall at 7pm on Saturday. You can buy tickets at the box office - tel 0191 277 8030 - or at the door on the night.

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