Annual 'Geordie Proms' concert visits the silver screen

The 24th North East Last Night of the Proms was enjoyed by a packed audience at Newcastle City Hall

Janice Cairns, above, performs on stage
Janice Cairns, above, performs on stage

A big audience at Newcastle City Hall was transported to the silver screen as the 24th North East Last Night of the Proms took place at the weekend.

Film themes spanning eight decades, from The Merry Widow of 1934 to last year’s Les Miserables, were performed by orchestra, choir and soloists.

But the underlying theme of the annual concert is combating cancer with more than £1.35m raised since the first ‘Geordie Proms’ concert in 1990.

Rosalynde Walker, driving force behind the concert, announced that this year £72,000 had been distributed to Newcastle University researchers, hospices and support groups – more than in 2012.

Researchers Dr Venetia Bigley and Dr Rachel Culpin, of Newcastle University Medical School, reported in the programme of the advances they had been able to make in tackling blood cancers with the assistance of money from the Proms charity, North East Promenaders Against Cancer (Nepac). Dr Bigley has now been backed by the Wellcome Trust to continue and build on her research work in Newcastle.

“This is a prestigious award and reflects the generoisty of local support and quality of science and clinical practice in the region,” she wrote.

Mrs Walker, who started the North East Last Night of the Proms with husband George, who died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2001, announced during her vote of thanks that she would be stepping down after next year’s 25th anniversary concert.

A groan went up from the audience but she went on: “I’ve been standing here and boring you for 24 years.

“I just hope you will all come along, that we will sell every seat and have a big party.”

Whether the annual concert survives her retirement – she did take a back seat once before but then felt the need to take the reins again – remains to be seen.

But nobody was bored on Saturday night as David Haslam conducted the English Philharmonic Orchestra, a massed Proms Chorus and soloists Janice Cairns, Suzanne Manuell, Stephen Aviss and James Cleverton.

All had performed at the Proms concert before, Janice and Suzanne many times.

They seemed to be enjoying it as much as the audience with its red, white and blue accessories.

“What a wonderful job,” declared Janice before a duet with James Cleverton: “I get to sing with all these young men!”

Orchestra leader Bradley Creswick wrung every drop of emotion from the Schindler’s List them and Suzanne Manuell raised the roof with I Dreamed a Dream from Les Mis.

The orchestra paid homage to James Bond and The Pink Panther and tenor Stephen Aviss made the customary southerner’s pig’s ear out of Blaydon Races.

“Sorry!” he said into the mic as he left the stage to gales of symapthetic laughter.

:: You will have noted that The Blaydon Races is not actually a film but Saturday’s concert conformed to Proms tradition, ending with the Geordie anthem before progressing to Rule Britannia, Pomp and Circumstance and Jerusalem.

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