With some justification, the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts call themselves the greatest musical festival in the World. Developed by the BBC since those early years, when popular concerts for ordinary people were begun by Sir Henry, the breadth of musical styles and the variety of performers make this a quite unique annual experience. Orchestras from the U.S.A. and the Continent as well as from Britain are featured, whilst the B.B.C.’s various orchestras are responsible for more than twenty of the seventy two concerts . The Albert Hall remains the main concert hall for the Proms with introductory talks prior to several of them, but there are many other concerts at smaller venues during the season, some of which are broadcast. All of the main concerts in the Albert Hall are broadcast on radio and many can be seen as well as heard on BBC 2,3, and 4 TV channels
Words play an important part this season to mark the anniversaries of William Blake and W.H.Auden. A major theme this summer is some of the works inspired by William Shakespeare.
Verdi’s opera ‘Macbeth’ and lots of overtures named after his plays are being performed and one evening is given over to veteran jazz musicians John Dankworth and Cleo Laine in their ‘From Bards to Blues’ programme on August 8th.
It’s eighty years since the B.B.C. took over the Proms and this year several of the works given their first performances since then are being played, including classics by Ravel, Shostakovich, Walton, Britten and Mahler as well as more recent music by Dutilleux, Oliver Knussen, James MacMillan and Judith Weir. Elgar’s birth one hundred and fifty years ago is being celebrated, notably by a performance of the rarely heard oratorio ‘The Apostles by City of Birmingham forces.
I have booked for three concerts and look forward to joining an audience notable for it’s enthusiasm and consisting of people from many countries as well as local people for whom London is accessible.
A couple of years ago I sat next to someone who was there because her orchestra from Dresden was performing. She was surprised that people were dressed so informally. ‘People would be wearing their best clothes if we were in Dresden’, she said. It’s almost a matter of honour that the promenaders themselves leave their best clothes at home!