LondonLife – The BBC Proms

September 13, 2011

Last weekend the Last Night of the Proms was held at Royal Albert Hall, the culmination of the summer music season’s 117th year.

The origins of the Proms go back to 10th August, 1895, when Robert Newman, manager of the concert venue Queen’s Hall in Langham Place, London, decided to offer a popular program of music in a less formal “promenade arrangement” which would be accessible to the masses and would ultimately lead them to a greater appreciation of classical music.

He offered conductor Henry Wood the opportunity to conduct the first Proms season, known as ‘Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts’. Early on, Wood and Newman established the tradition of having a Wagner Night on Mondays and a Beethoven Night on Fridays and Wood used the platform of the Proms to promote up-and-coming performers.

In 1927 the BBC took over the management of the Proms, now formally known as the BBC Proms, and has continued in that role ever since bar an interruption during World War II. It was during World War II, incidentally, that the event moved to the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington (the magnificent interior of which can be seen above), after Queen’s Hall was gutted following a bombing raid on 10th May, 1941.

The eight-week Proms program has since continued to widen with the introduction of complete opera performances in the 1960s, concerts by foreign ensembles and other music styles including jazz, Gospel and that specifically targeted at children.

Now including more than 70 main concerts, the music festival – for which standing tickets can still be bought continuing the tradition of ‘promenading’ – also continues to also be a showcase for new works. For more on the Proms, see www.bbc.co.uk/proms, and for more on the venue, see www.royalalberthall.com.

PICTURE: Courtesy of BBC, Chris Christodoulou

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