Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 10:46 PM
Short Summary: A look at the history of the BBC Proms and how the programming is now of universal appeal with something for everyone to enjoy.
Most people know about the Last Night of the Proms with its rousing renditions of “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule Britannia”. The concert is broadcast live on BBC1 on a Saturday night and is hard to miss but it is not a one off concert but rather the climax of an entire season of music. For established lovers of classical music the Proms are firmly part of the annual social calendar but others may know little about this historic music festival believing there is nothing of interest to them. The chances are that they would be wrong because this is a festival with something for everyone and at affordable prices.
In 1895 the manager of the newly built venue the Queen’s Hall in London decided to launch a series of concerts in an attempt to attract a wider audience for classical music. Robert Newman, in collaboration with conductor Henry Wood, produced events with less formality than a usual classical performance and including standing areas in the auditorium with low ticket prices. The series was known as “Mr Newman’s Promenade Concerts”. The concept of promenading came from outdoor concerts where standing guests would walk about whilst the performance was in progress.
By 1927 the Proms had been taken over by the BBC after financial difficulties had threatened to end the festival. The performances were still held at the Queen’s Hall and conducted by Henry Wood until the building was demolished in an air raid during World War II. A new venue was hastily sought and the only one suitable was the Royal Albert Hall which has remained the home of the Proms ever since.
More changes were made to the Proms when William Glock became BBC controller of music in 1959. He started to change the nature of the proms by introducing a wider selection of genres and new music from around the world in experimental programming that was to create an even wider audience for the festival.
The proms are now a series over 70 concerts and other events spanning eight weeks during the summer. Seated tickets can be pre booked but tickets to the the standing area, which remains a prominent feature of the event, can only be purchased on the night. This can lead to lengthy queues for popular events with people camping overnight for the Last Night of the Proms.
The programming is extremely broad and eclectic with evenings of Wagner and Bach mixed with performances of pieces from modern composers and a variety of other genres. You can see everything from opera to urban music, Spanish guitars to acapella soul. This year’s programme includes a sitar concerto and a performance of Frank Zappa’s satire “Greggery Peccary”. There are always universally appealing proms featuring music from the movies and performances aimed at children too. The series climaxes with the famous Last Night with a selection of popular classics and patriotic pieces. Such is the popularity of the Last Night that the venue could be sold out many times over and so the event is now supplemented by Proms in the Park across the country. These feature live performances of popular and classical music followed by a live transmission of events at the Royal Albert Hall.
There is truly something for everyone at the proms which make a fabulous night out without breaking the bank. There is a unique atmosphere and spirit of goodwill at the events which it is well worth experiencing and so if you haven’t tried the proms you really should!
Sally Stacey is a keen writer who attends the Proms and loves Wagner and the Organ at the Royal Albert Hall.