The first “promenade concert” took place way back in 1895 conducted by Henry Wood (later “Sir” Henry Wood) who went on to conduct the annual series of concerts until his death in 1944. Originally held at the new Queen’s Hall the “Proms” moved to the Royal Albert Hall after the Queen’s Hall was bombed in World War II. After his death they were officially renamed The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. Surprisingly, until 1971 people were allowed to smoke at the Proms too, such was the determination to make these concerts open and affordable to all!
Many of the concerts featured are broadcast by BBC Radio 3 or one of the BBC Channels. The Last Night of the Proms on BBC 2 TV attracted 1.2 million viewers this year – a substantial number for a programme featuring Classical music. The “Last Night” of the Proms is always the climax of the largest classical music festival in the world and featured some of the greatest musicians across the globe and rounded off 75 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. In-keeping with its tradition, the night’s programme proved to be the grandest of finales to mark the end of this year’s prom season.
Conducting was Jiří Bělohlávek who said good-bye to the post of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor.The show opened with the world premiere of Sparks written by astoundingly gifted clarinetist and composer, Mark Simpson. It was a three-minute white knuckle ride full off chaotic energy.
Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti and Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja were the show’s star attractions. Mr Calleja, heralded as the voice of the modern tenor oozes charm and has the ability to sound effortless. His performance of Leoncavallo’s Mattinata was enhanced by an appearance in the orchestra by the accordionist Ian Watson. Ms Benedetti was in fine form playing several pieces with dexterity skill and great energy, starting with the much-loved Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Max Bruch. She is a wonderful musician and has just launched her new album Silver Screen which features Por Una Cabeza ably assisted by anither London-based accordionist, Ksenija Sidorova.
A special treat was the surprise appearance of athletes from Team GB and Paralympics GB who joined the orchestra on stage during Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea-Songs. The usual fun and festivities as is traditional on the last night, rounded off the evening. Several rounds of Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and Rule Britannia saw an eager audience waving Union flags as well as flags from other countries, having dressed up especially for the occasion. Then, balloons and poppers were released into the air as everyone joined in with Auld Lang Syne which of course raised the roof at the evening’s close.