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Where was Jurassic Park in the BBC Proms?

That was the question on many people’s lips either as they left the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 20th July after the John Williams Prom, or after watching the performance on television the following night.

While those of us in the audience had been treated to a night of musical and acoustic perfection from the BBC Concert Orchestra, the selection of said music left a lot to be desired.

Star Wars? Check. Harry Potter? Check. Indiana Jones? Check. Jurassic Park? Nope.

What do you mean, there's no Jurassic Park?! It’s the John Williams Film Music Prom celebrating his 85th birthday, for heaven’s sake! Celebrating a lifetime of epic movie soundtracks that people have grown up with over the decades! 

What makes it even more frustrating is that JP and Schindler’s List are both mentioned in this blog post by the Albert Hall in April yet neither made it into the final programme.

https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/news/2017/april/bbc-proms-2017-5-top-picks-for-a-classical-music-novice/

I had been fortunate to see Jim Steinman's "Bat Out of Hell: The  Musical" the week before the Proms, and despite including 17 of Steinman's epic, bombastic, emotional songs (you're getting the gist of my musical tastes, aren't you?), they did not skimp on my favourite instrumental pieces. Even the lesser known "Good Girls Go To Heaven" was performed by the orchestra as the theatre emptied after the performance. I simply stood at the balcony railing to listen, making the most of this precious time. The Proms had the potential to be a more moving experience than the musical, but in the end, it wasn't.

Getting back to the Proms, at the time when tickets were released in May, the programme for the evening (or any other Prom, for that matter), had not been made available, so we just had to grab tickets when we could and hope for the best. Unlike the rest of the Proms, which had their programmes online well in advance of the concerts, the John Williams Prom only went up two days prior to the event.

Frankly, putting together something like this should have been simple: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, ET, Jaws, Superman, Schindler, two or three pieces from recent movies, a couple of others that we’d forgotten he had done and a couple that we’ve not heard of.

I envisioned the audience in the Royal Albert Hall falling into silence, then collectively holding its breath as the tinkling, lullaby-like motif of Jurassic Park began on keyboard, being joined by the violins softly humming their mournful section of the famous soundtrack, and finally the brass jumping in as the orchestra reaches its crescendo and visions of lush green forests, Brachiosaurs and Sir Richard Attenborough's immortal line "Welcome to Jurassic Park" play through our heads.

Sadly, that never happened.

Instead, the 70s (Jaws, Star Wars - twice) and 80s (Superman, ET, Raiders, Witches of Eastwick) get a lot of famous soundtracks, the noughties onwards are way over-represented (War Horse, The Terminal, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter - twice, Catch Me if You Can, BFG, Munich, Star Wars - again, twice) while the 90s hardly get a look in with only JFK and Amistad to represent an entire generation.

That’s a lot of 30-year-olds who grew up with the Jurassic Park soundtrack as the backdrop to their childhood being overlooked; the ones who cried unashamedly in cinemas during Jurassic World when Gray threw open the hotel room’s shutters to reveal John Hammond’s dream come to life as Williams’ evocative soundtrack swelled to its triumphant climax (see comments under the YouTube video here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SpdMVuUvkkI).

I’m not saying the concert itself was not good. It was. The orchestra produce a sound as close to the original as you can wish for. Raiders, Superman and Star Wars were good to hear live, as were the opening bars of Harry Potter, and Jaws made me want to lift my feet up from the floor. But none of those soundtracks have the same emotional heart-wrenching pull, sense of nostalgia and excitement as Jurassic Park has on me.

So, why no Jurassic Park, one of John Williams' greatest soundtracks?

A BBC Podcast attempted to answer this question with the conductor, Keith Lockhart. It didn’t really answer the question. Something like he wanted to represent as many movies as he could that people would recognise and were waiting to hear but also others that people didn’t realise Williams had scored.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059dvrs

Erm, yes, we were waiting to hear Jurassic Park! If you want to include as many movies as possible you don’t have four excerpts from Star Wars and two from Harry Potter when Jurassic Park is sitting there begging to be performed on a rare occasion! One from each would have sufficed!

Again, why the glaring omission?

It can’t be to do with money. If the BBC can afford Chris Evans at £2.2m they can afford the permission to perform a five minute soundtrack at the world-renowned Proms.

It can’t be to do with licensing rights. Disney owns Star Wars and that soundtrack was still included four times, did I mention it was there four times? I like the Star Wars Main Theme but I don’t need to hear three other filler pieces from the same series alongside it at the expense of my favourite soundtrack.

Perhaps South Kensington just doesn’t like dinosaurs. The Natural History Museum recently booted out Dippy the Diplodocus from the entrance hall and now, a stone’s throw away in the Royal Albert Hall, the Proms omits one of the most famous and well known soundtracks featuring dinosaurs.

Oh well. I only had to be ridiculously lucky in May to be online at the right time to nab tickets to the Prom at twice the price I’d considered paying (because obviously they're going to include JP!), book a second four hour train journey down to London and back within a week, rearrange my shifts at work in order to be there, got super-excited when my tickets arrived in the post, waited until two days before the concert for the main programme to be released to find JP was not included, continued to hope it would be in the encore and only at 10pm on the 20th July discovered that it was not to be performed.

No sooner had I reached the bus stop outside the Hall than I heard a voice behind me: “why didn’t they include Jurassic Park?!” It was a girl who was about my age and she was just as baffled as I was. We commiserated with each other. I had even worn my Jurassic Park t-shirt and cute dinosaur socks for the evening.

I’m sure there’ll be another John Williams Prom - maybe for his 90th? It will be just as straightforward for me to make sure I am there and they’re bound to include Jurassic Park this time…Surely?

Failing that, maybe Sunderland will win City of Culture, meaning we'll get the Proms and maybe include Jurassic Park in the programme.

I wonder which is more likely to happen.

PS: I have found another movie music concert at the Royal Albert Hall by Classic FM in September. One page about the concert mentions Jurassic Park, another page mentions Lord of the Rings. Only there are no tickets available. There weren't for the Proms either except on those rare sporadic days when they magically appeared on the Hall's website.

I'll keep you posted!