Sunday, September 11, 2005

Last Night of the Proms

Last night, the one hundred and eleventh Promenade season came to an end. Instigated in 1895 in the Queen's Hall by impresario Robert Newman and conductor and organist Henry Wood. The concerts were designed to be accessible for all - smoking, drinking and eating were allowed, and the prices were very cheap - to stand in the auditorium, a season ticket cost 5 pence - not bad value, while others could pay more and stand in the gallery. That has led to perennial barriking of the two groups - the "posh" in the seats and the "prommers" in the auditorium which has lasted, good naturedly, through to today. It is the standing (or promenading) that has given this music festival its name.

The season started back in July as London recovered from terrorist attacks. Much good music has been played, but the Proms has always been a showcase for new works. The Last Night is always been a bit of a party with much flag waving and patriotic fervour, but in recent years, that overt, nationalistic "flag-wrapping" patriotism has matured into something much more human and inclusive. Twenty years ago, you would have only seen English flags (not even Welsh, Scottish or Irish had much of a showing), but last night, there must have been up to a hundred different flags being waved from all over the world. Now that's a party I can enjoy. It shows that as a nation we have grown, and no longer feel the need to display overt, over the top patriotism to hide our fears and insecurities.

The music was superb with Guitarist John Williams playing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and the German Counter-tenor Andreas Scholl who sang arias from Handel's opera Xerxes. However, along with that were interchanges with Proms in the Park concerts that were going on up and around the country. In all it was a feast of music that was thoroughly enjoyable. The new conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Paul Daniel, has more than won over the Prommers, and the festival looks to be in good hands for the next few years.

1 comment:

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