Can you imagine the thrill of conducting thousands of voices in the Royal Albert Hall? Well I've been lucky enough to be doing that for five or six years, now as Principal Conductor of The Really Big Chorus: 1,500 voices for Verdi's Requiem, for example, 3,000 for The Armed Man and—the really big one— almost 4,000 for the annual Messiah from Scratch. It's unbelievable! And now there's Carl Orff's blockbusting Carmina Burana to look forward to on 10 July. If any piece of music demands a massive and mighty bunch of singers, it's that one and I can hardly wait for that unforgettable opening impact, when over 1,500 wide-open throats let rip!
Of course, a big part of that thrill is being in the Royal Albert Hall itself—such a wonderful space, and extra excitement at being there for what is always (in our July concert) The Last Night Before the Proms, which start just five days later.
Mind you, it's not that easy keeping so many voices together when you think how far away from me many of them are standing—me at the centre of the arena, the arena filled to bursting with such a vast orchestra and singers up on the stage, right up to the roof on both sides of the organ and half way round the hall, floor to ceiling. It's a tremendous sight and an unbelievable sound. Each time I have to give such enormous gestures—just so people can see me—that I can hardly move my arms the next day! Always that great moment too when I give the first gesture and a gasp comes from the audience as thousands of singers stand up to sing.
Brian Kay, conductor