Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and Rule, Britannia! Dig a little deeper and you’ll find The Proms offer an eight-week musical extravaganza.
Ah, The Proms, cue an army of Union Jack bowler hats, bunting and flags. Except, no, it’s so much more than one evening of exaggerated patriotism. In fact, The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC, to give them their full title, have been impressing audiences since 1895.
While some say elitist, The Proms were actually created by impresario Robert Newman as a way to encourage an audience, not usually attracted to concert halls, with cheap tickets and the freedom to eat, drink and smoke while the music played. With Henry Wood hired as conductor, the series of concerts continued under his charge after the death of Newman and, to this day, a bronze bust of Wood is placed in front of the organ for the whole season.
This year’s Proms kick off on Friday 18 July at The Royal Albert Hall – itself a monument to Victorian pomp and splendour – with conductor Sir Andrew Davis leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s The Kingdom.
While the season may start and end with tradition, the eight ensuing weeks offer a melodious raft of music to match all tastes. On Sunday 20 July, Proms debutante Gabby Logan is presenting the first ever BBC Sport Prom, combining classical favourites with memorable sports themes including Match of the Day, Test Match Special and Wimbledon (bet you’re humming them already).
Newbies Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, aka The Pet Shop Boys, are set to add their own electronic influence on Wednesday 23 July with the world premiere of A Man from the Future. Inspired by the life of Alan Turing who helped break the Enigma code during World War II, but who was later prosecuted for his homosexuality, the Prom includes an appearance by the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde.
For those with kids, start a lifelong love of classical music with the first ever CBeebies Proms on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 July. Take a journey through London with appearances from their favourite shows including I Can Cook, Show Me and Robert the Robot, we’re in awe of seeing the great Bernard Cribbins who is also making his Proms debut at the show.
Equally memorable will be the War Horse Prom on Sunday 3 August which is inspired by the National Theatre’s play based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, and kicks off a number of Proms commemorating the start of the Great War. Performers include the Proms Military Wives Choir led by Gareth Malone who also makes his debut this year.
Two Late Night Proms introduce the vocal talents of two fabulous female talents. On Tuesday 19 August, Brit Award and Mercury Prize-nominated singer Laura Mvula channels her classical training to perform a new orchestral remix of her album, Sing to the Moon. Meanwhile, on Friday 5 September, Brit Award nominee Paloma Faith joins a 42-piece jazz orchestra and the Urban Voices Collective to showcase a new arrangement of her songs with an intimate mood in the concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington.
One of our favourites, Sir Simon Rattle returns his magic to the Proms after a two-year break, also on Friday 5 September, when he and the Berliner Philarmoniker offer up an all-Russian programme of Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.
After a short Late Night show on Thursday 11 September in which he is guaranteed to dazzle us with his powerful rendition of Over the Rainbow, Rufus Wainwright is among the line-up when The Proms adjourns to Hyde Park for Proms in the Park. With Terry Wogan and Tony Blackburn presenting, the show also features Earth, Wind & Fire, guaranteeing an evening of classics with a twist.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and this year sees Sakari Oramo direct his first Last Night of the Proms. Watch out for an eight-minute medley to mark the 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins and, of course, revel in those Great British anthems too.
You can book your place at the Proms by visiting https://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/features/tickets. Let’s get promming London!
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