Everything that traffic will allow

The above words form the second half of the second line of the lyric for Irving Berlin’s song “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. Only now have I checked their meaning. mba sKOOL.com tells me that “all the traffic will bear” is a profit maximisation objective, appropriate when the product life cycle is very short, which works for monopolistic markets.

I have taken my seat with an audience of a low mean age, for the afternoon performance of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”, at the Great Hall of King’s College, London. The Great Hall was constructed between 1829 and 1831; King’s was named after King George IV, who succeeded his father to the throne in 1820. From 1811 he had served as Prince Regent during his father’s final mental illness.

Lucy Worsley describes the Regency period as “vibrant, eclectic, even frightening.”. She writes of how “political crises were accompanied by an upheaval in the arts”. John Nash, the period’s defining architect, “built stage sets for the Prince Regent’s no-rules lifestyle.”. Nash offered his services free of charge to construct the founding building (including this Hall) of King’s. However, Sir Robert Smirke, a leading Greek Revivalist architect, was commissioned to build something that would be architecturally sympathetic to the neighbouring Somerset House, designed by Sir William Chambers.

Smirke had begun his study of architecture in May 1796, with John Soane. He left in disgust in early 1797, writing to his father:

“He was on Monday morning in one of his amiable Tempers. Everything was slovenly that I was doing. My drawing was slovenly because it was too great a scale, my scale, also, being too long, and he finished saying the whole of it was excessively slovenly, and that I should draw it out again on the back not to waste another sheet about it.”.

Back to the music. Prokofiev visited America for the last time early in 1938, and met Walt Disney. Sergei was enraptured by “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, while Walt was equally smitten by the “fairy tale with music” that was “Peter and the Wolf”. Ten years after its 1936 premiere (Prokofiev completed the orchestration on his 45th birthday), Disney and his team were to animate the work.

Benjamin Britten composed the “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” in 1945. He and the singer Peter Pears, who would become his partner, had spent the first three years of World War II in America. For an intriguing account of their time at “February House” in Brooklyn, see Philip Clark’s 2016 article for “Gramophone”.

It’s a splendid performance by the youthful King’s College London Symphony Orchestra, directed by Jonathan Lo (narrator Tom Howard). And for the record, adults paid a modest price, while children were admitted free.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s