Royal Albert Hall’s flagship event: Your guide to The Proms 2018
The Royal Albert Hall is one of Royal Garden Hotel’s most famous neighbours and you can see the distinctive Italianate architecture from many of the rooms. Despite hosting more than 350 events each year, it is the annual convening of The Proms that is the occasion everyone associates with the concert hall.
Origins of The Proms
While it’s hard to imagine The Proms being held anywhere other than the Royal Albert Hall, the event’s origins lie elsewhere. Back in the 18th century, promenade concerts were often held in the pleasure gardens of London, but by the 19th century they had headed indoors.
The founder of The Proms
Businessman Robert Newman decided it was time that concert hall music became available to the masses and in 1895 his promenade concerts were inaugurated. Held at the Queen’s Hall in Langham Palace, tickets were offered at a lower price and an informal atmosphere, where eating, drinking and smoking was allowed, welcomed everyone in.
The father of The Proms
The person whose name remains the most synonymous with The Proms is Sir Henry Wood. He was appointed the sole conductor in the beginning and was responsible for convening the orchestra and designing the repertoire to be performed throughout the series. A bust of Wood sits in front of the organ during The Proms to this day.
Enter the BBC
After Newman went bankrupt and The Proms were saved by the music publishers Chappell & Co, they eventually ended up under the remit of the BBC. The corporation oversaw the event from 1927 until the outbreak of war in 1939.
The Proms and World War II
During the war, The Proms continued as private sponsors funded it and Wood continued to direct its operations. In May 1941, the Queen’s Hall was damaged irreversibly in an air raid and the event was moved to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time.
The Proms were held at the venue each summer until 1944, when it was considered too dangerous and moved to Bedford Corn Exchange instead. They remained there until the end of the conflict.
Triumphant return to the Royal Albert Hall
After the war, The Proms returned to the Royal Albert Hall where they have been held each year since. They have gone from strength to strength, welcoming international orchestras and introducing specially-commissioned music. The BBC is once again involved and Newman’s vision of bringing music to the masses is realised annually.
The Proms 2018
This year’s Proms officially start on 13 July, with an all-British schedule featuring the music Vaughan Williams wrote to accompany three of Walt Whitman’s poems, and The Planets by Holst. These classic pieces will be accompanied by a new collaboration between Anna Meredith and 59 Productions.
Then, throughout the summer there will be performances of everything from War and Peace to Beethoven, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov. The BBC Young Musician 40th Anniversary Concert will be held on 15 July, where this year’s winner will play, alongside talented previous victors including Nicola Benedetti, Freddy Kempf and Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
As well as the concerts, there are lots of talks and even exhibitions included in the schedule, meaning there is something to interest everyone. The Proms Family Chorus on 29 July will get even the youngest audience members singing and the Proms Children’s Press Conference on the same day will enable them to ask top musicians questions.
Highlights of the Last Night will include Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud; Songs of Darkness, Dreams of Light by Roxanna Panufnik; and Carousel – Soliloquy by Richard Rodgers. It will be particularly poignant to hear Fantasia on British Sea-Songs by Henry Wood.
The whole proceedings will come to an end with Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem, The National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne. The BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Singers will be accompanied by Gerald Finley’s baritone and Jess Gillam on saxophone throughout the evening.
To see the full schedule and to book seats, click here. Promming tickets offer a real sense of atmosphere and hark back to the origins of the event, as they mean you will be standing. 500 such tickets are sold on the door before each concert.
The Last Night of The Proms is, of course, the most famous and prestigious of the concert series. Only 200 tickets are allocated by open ballot and must be applied for by post. You can test your luck and download the form here.
Any remaining tickets for the Last Night of The Proms will go on sale at 9:00 on 6 July and will sell out quickly. It would be worth it to get a spot at the Royal Albert Hall for 8 September, however, as Last Night veteran Sir Andrew Davis will return to conduct.
Image credit: Chris Christodoulou via the Royal Albert Hall