One of the items on my life list is to attend The Last Night at the Proms. If you don’t know, The Proms is a summer-long, nation-wide series of musical programs held throughout the UK. The name comes from promenade concerts, which were held in parks, and the patrons were free to walk about, or promenade. The 100+ concerts range from serious classical music to a Dr. Who Prom. The concerts are held over an eight-week period and are nightly at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The Last Night at the Proms is telecast and celebrated in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Island, with the broadcast moving between the parks, although mostly focusing on the Royal Albert Hall. This year’s Last Night in Wales will be at a place I know well, Caerphilly Castle, or more specifically, Owain Glyndŵr Playing Fields.Frequently, the Proms are topical – in 2006, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, much of his music was featured. In 2001, the Last Night at the Proms, usually a joyous and festive occasion, was held just four days after the attacks on September 11th, and featured Barber’s Adagio for Strings, a piece of music that will make you weep (and weak) from the sheer sadness of it. In an odd twist of fate, the conductor that night was an American, Leonard Slatkin. He and the musicians, along with the audiences around the UK, look absolutely shattered.
The first half of the Last Night of the Proms features a variety of composers and musical compositions, but the second half is a series of set pieces. Those include Edward Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance, Hope & Glory, more well-known as the Graduation song, as well as Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. Rule Britannia is also another piece that’s always included. The concert concludes with Hubert Parry's Jerusalem (a setting of a poem by William Blake), and the British national anthem. Auld Lang Syne is also included, and oddly, so is the song, You’ll Never Walk Alone from the musical, Carousel. (Click links to hear the songs referenced)
Now, what’s this all got to do with a girl? Well, the girl in question is the first woman to conduct The Last Night at the Proms, Marin Alsop, who is also the conductor of our own Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
She’s an incredibly accomplished woman, winner of a MacArthur Fellowship (the first conductor to receive one!), founder of the Orch-Kids (teaching inner city children about music) and a graduate of Yale and Julliard. That she’s been awarded this plum role is a huge credit to her! We’re so pleased.
The BBC Last Night of the Proms will be broadcast on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. GMT. You can access the BBC through various services including my personal favourite, Tunnelbear.com. It basically changes your IP address to a UK one, so you can access BBC and other UK television programs. Very handy for watching episodes of Downton Abbey before anyone else!