Thursday, 13 September 2007

An infinity of Last Nights

A quaint British tradition, The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC - or 'The Proms' as it is generally known has come to an end for another year. They were started in 1875 by Henry Wood and, despite a sticky patch around WWII, have continued annually to this day, with about 70 concerts this season.

The 'Last Night' is the evening most people associate with the Proms, trotting out perennial favourites such as 'Jerusalem', 'Land of Hope and Glory' (Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1) and Wood's 'Fantasia on British Sea Songs'. Admission is very much oversubscribed and to get a ticket nowadays, you have to have attended some of the others during the season to stand any chance.

It is a testament to the Proms that it has evolved over the years. Classical music is not everyone's cup of tea and the Proms could have withered away to an inconsequential annual gathering of music anoraks or even died out totally. However, with the support of the BBC and the rise in popularity of Classical Superstars - Leslie Garrett, Vanessa Mae, Katherine Jenkins, Nigel Kennedy et al, Classical Music has become 'Cool'. To this end, in 1996, Hyde Park had a screen and stage and many thousands picnicked and watched and sang. This year there were five 'Proms In The Park', each with their own programme, but all coming together for the Finale. The parks were packed with people of all ages out to have a good time. It wasn't just classical music - each Park played on its Nationalistic origins - I particularly enjoyed the Irish music from the band Beoga - complemented by an Irish dancer at the end. Fireworks added the finishing touch.

One day I hope to make one of the Park Proms and, weather permitting, it will be a good way of soaking up some classical music. Anyone else up for it? As I've nearly said before - 'You've got to try everything once'

More info at Wikipedia and the BBC website


Gert said...

I doubt that you could attribute a quarter of a million people attending 80 concerts that absolutely did not feature plastic crossover stars to the fact that these meagre talents have been promoted by marketing executives.

I only attended one this year, the Gotterdammerung. The hall was almost full for this; I doubt this was in any way as a result of the commercial success of Katherine Jenkins' Predominantly Pop albums.

And I really don't think that the audiences for singers such as Jenkins - predominantly middle-aged and white could really be classed as 'cool' by anybody! Only in the sense that Cliff Richard is 'cool'.

Charlie Croker said...

OK, perhaps Katherine Jenkins was a bad example. Looking at her latest offering - 'World In Union - The Official Album of the Rugby World Cup', she does seem to have sold out!

1/4 of a million people. I'm sure that you are right. But not 1/4 million different people. Plenty of those would have attended more than one concert (de rigeur if you want to stand a chance of obtaining a 'Last Night' ticket). I agree that close to 79 out of the 80 concerts would not feature the 'plastic' stars, but other, less known to the masses, but equally talented singers and musicians.

Folk music got a boost in the 1990's with young talent coming in and dispelling myths about the 'finger-in-ear, beer-swilling dirge singers', creating the thriving festivals seen today. If, in the same way the plastic fantastic help put new, younger bums on seats, it may widen the appeal of Classical music and keep it going. That's got to be good, surely?!