The BBC Proms were founded in 1895 and they are now in their 122nd season. Organised over eight weeks in the summer, around 70 concerts are held at the Royal Albert and Cadogan Halls, and, in addition, there are Proms in the Park and several educational events for children are held around the UK, too.
The Proms feature a wide range of classical music, opera, and even jazz, and they aim to be, above all else, inclusive – aiming to get more people involved in creating and listening to music. Many people’s experience of the Proms will be the Last Night celebrations which take place on the second Saturday in September and is broadcast on BBC radio and television. This concert, however, is not wholly representative of the other events as it takes a much lighter tone and features a range of well-known classical pieces followed by a round of patriotic British songs and arrangements.
History of the Proms
The idea for the original Proms back in the late 19th century was that of impresario Robert Newman. Newman offered Sir Henry Wood a position as the conductor of the first Proms season and it is his name which is most closely associated with the event.
Newman and Wood offered tickets at low prices to make music accessible to as many people as possible. Wood particularly worked to find new talented performers and to introduce them to a wider audience. During the Proms held in the first part of the 20th century, he featured many of the leading composers of the day including Ravel, Debussy, Richard Strauss, Vaughan Williams and Rakhmaninov.
The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is probably best known for hosting the Proms and this year is no exception. During August and September, there is a range of classical concerts on offer, including appearances by The National Jazz Youth Orchestra of Scotland and The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and as well, on August 8th, there is a Proms Extra featuring a Session with Jamie Cullum.
There are still tickets available for many events so head over and choose your favourites. One thing to remember is that tickets for the Proms cannot be resold and are non-transferrable.
Proms in the Park
The Proms in the Park bring the season to a close and form part of the Last Night celebrations. In London, the festivities in the Royal Albert Hall extend outwards to Hyde Park, and this year the event there is hosted by Michael Ball. There are also events going on in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and as the finale approaches, giant screens transmit events from the Royal Albert Hall, so that everyone can sing along. If you aren’t able to make it to London these events are equally as entertaining.
Getting to the Royal Albert Hall
If you are arriving by car or taxi the easiest place to be dropped off is at Door 1, next to the building’s south entrance. If you are driving, the Royal Albert Hall is offering parking spaces at Imperial College, about 5 minutes’ walk away, for evening shows and weekend matinees. However, parking is not available for weekday matinee performances. Book your space and pay the £10.20 fee in advance.
If you want to get there by public transport the nearest National Rail station is London Victoria and the closest tube stations are South Kensington and High Street Kensington.
Alternatively, see West London from the air before arriving in style by booking a chartered helicopter flight. This is a unique way to arrive and will make a special event of any performance.
Whether you are a keen music fan or would just like to experience what the Proms offers it is definitely worth visiting. Many people find that once they have attended one performance, they are fans for life and come back year after year. Maybe that will be your experience too.