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Roger Wright: BBC's man behind the Proms

Thursday - 7/25/2013, 12:35pm  ET

This undated photo released on Wednesday July 24, 2013 by the BBC shows the BBC Proms concert organiser Roger Wright in London. As the BBC's man in charge of the Proms, which proudly bills itself as the world's largest classical music festival, Wright makes repeated trips to the hall on each of 57 consecutive days of concerts. Though the Proms last 57 days, there are actually more than 90 concerts, since many days there are lunchtime and late night events as well. (AP Photo/Chris Christodoulou, BBC)

MIKE SILVERMAN
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- Some people go to the seashore during the summer. Some go to the countryside. Roger Wright goes to Royal Albert Hall.

As the BBC's man in charge of the Proms, which proudly bills itself as the world's largest classical music festival, Wright makes repeated trips to the hall on each of 57 consecutive days of concerts.

A typical schedule might include an early-morning logistics consult with members of his 25-person team, then a chat with concertgoers who have lined up overnight for cheap seats. He's likely to pop over for midday rehearsals, then back again to his box to entertain guests at the evening performance and visit backstage with the performers.

"People say, 'How do you do it?,'" Wright said in an interview in his office at the BBC Broadcasting House near Portland Place, three miles across London from the hall. "We all work amazingly hard and put in incredible hours, but it's the sort of thing where work and hobby and passion sort of overlap. So you wouldn't choose naturally to work 20 hours a day, nor should people, but some of those working hours are also about, my God, getting paid to have the privilege of hearing these wonderful concerts."

His eyes light up as he talks of the past weekend, when conductors Antonio Pappano, Valery Gergiev and Daniel Barenboim were "all overlapping and mixing backstage. The joy of the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S. (conducted by Gergiev) making its debut appearance and them being able to sit in on the rehearsal of 'Die Walkuere' (the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Barenboim) -- that's really special."

The Royal Albert Hall, an enormous circular domed building in South Kensington facing onto Hyde Park, was built during Queen Victoria's reign and is named for her late husband. It originally could hold up to 9,000 people, but safety rules now limit the number to about 5,500.

For the Proms that figure includes up to 900 who stand in the "arena" -- the main floor from which all seats are removed. In theory, that audience is free to stroll about, or "promenade" --hence the term. Tickets for the arena are sold the day of the concert and go for just
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