The Proms: An Extraordinary British Tradition

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The Proms begin today, July 19, perhaps the quintessential British cultural event, held each year in several venues in London between July and September, though most notably at The Royal Albert Hall.

The word proms is in fact a shortening of the term Promenade Concerts, a cultural phenomena which had its origins in 18th century London, which took place in pleasure gardens where the spectators were allowed to move around the orchestras. The word promenade is a borrowing from the French language, meaning to walk.

Music for the masses

In the 19th century this style of concert moved indoors as well, leading eventually to the establishment of ‘The Proms’ on August 10 1895 at the Queens Hall, Langham Place by the well known impresario, Robert Newman.

The idea was to offer the experience of classical music to the general public, with lower ticket prices in an informal setting. It has to be said that the idea worked, with a comprehensive schedule of performances spanning over two months.

Too English?

However, the Proms do have their detractors. For instance, I have heard it said more than once that they are too English. Whilst there is certainly a great deal of flag waving, a cursory look at the famous ‘Last Night of the Proms’, will reveal flags from all over the world.

What is more, much time and energy has been put in to diversifying the content, with the inclusion of world music, as well as folk music from all over Great Britain and Ireland.

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Haiku: Heart

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The cold and cruel
outer world will always win
but not in our hearts

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Poem: All That’s Left

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There’s a darkness over this land
even in the midday sun.
July may be warm and the children off school
but their diurnal play, the boisterous shouts
and brief tears of drama
leave me cold.
I’ve seen through this shadow of impermanence,
the frail beauty and cheap happiness of now;
they carry the seeds of sorrow and my remembrance.
It’s all that’s left of me

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Haiku: Democracy

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Who stands up for you?
Left, right, centre – all the same
We are the people

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Poem: Monolith

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I get out and walk every day,
try to feel alive and worthwhile,
try to make every step count,
try to chip little bits off this monolith
blocking the pure steam of light in to my mind.
You may say I’m shy, that I’m retiring,
as if the seven ages of man ever counted
for anything,
when you or I could drop dead at any time.
But I really can’t care
even though you are right – I am not alone,
the first, or the last.
I am not the first to feel slighted, rejected,
belittled,
but only I know what it’s like
to be me
and I will remember, counting
the days until the last piece of this monolith
is washed down the drain and life begins anew.

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Haiku: Anger

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Do not sublimate
anger must be what it is
Acknowledge feeling

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Portrait of An Artist, James Joyce – Astrology Musings

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James Joyce is the Irish colossus of English literature.

Novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, critic, linguist, singer… he was a man of many parts.

Brought up in a traditionally Catholic household, he rejected much of what that tradition stood for, becoming a leading member of the writing Avant-Garde, yet he never left the old Catholic world completely.

Widely travelled

He spent most of later years abroad, travelling to Italy, France and finally dying Switzerland; he may have left his native Dublin but it continued to dominate his thoughts, strongly influence his writing.

According to the birth data, he had Capricorn rising, an indication of a hard working approach to life. His ruler, Saturn, is in Taurus in house 5 of creativity, which is ruled by and making a difficult square to Venus in Aquarius in house 2 of personal security. He clearly put a lot of effort in to his creative art but it was always, especially early on, a financial struggle.

The Aquarian paradox

James Joyce was a Sun Aquarian, natives who typically have a certain rebellious or unusual streak about them, though who also, paradoxically, often adhere to certain aspects of conservatism all their life.

This may be due to the attribution of the traditional ruling planet of Aquarius, Saturn, in his more positive aspect. Uranus too has become associated with the fixed air sign.

Joyce had Venus conjunct his Sun in house 2. Here is his attraction to the artistic process and beauty in an Aquarian forward thinking manner.

Neptune inspires

His Sun is also closely square Neptune in Taurus, along with Jupiter in house 5. Joyce had a very fine tenor voice, and Neptune’s strong link to the Sun from Taurus, a sign which rules the throat, may be indicative of this, plus his abilities at creative writing and poetry.

His Mercury just into Pisces in house 3 hints at a fine imagination, especially as the ruler of house 3, Jupiter, is in conjunction with Neptune and trine Uranus from house 9.

Here is the extraordinary writing potential, which is at once imaginative, inspirational but also off beat.

Works like ‘Portrait’, ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ are testimony to this. Mercury is also the ruler of house 9 of the higher mind, where Uranus is found. He was something of a linguist too.

However, this Mercury is also trine Mars in Gemini. Here is the sharp intellect too, which gave him the ability to be a fine critic.

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