The predecessor of the BBC Proms, 'the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts', began 114 years ago, in August 1895. It was the brainchild of Robert Newman, manager of the newly-built Queen's Hall in London. He wanted 'to reach a wider audience by offering more popular programmes, adopting a less formal promenade arrangement, keeping ticket price low'. An organist and pianist, Henry Wood (1869-1944) agreed with this concept: 'Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music,' and, starting with 49 concerts in the first year, he conducted almost all of the concerts of the Proms by himself for about half a century.
These original aims of the founders still remained the same after the BBC took over the festival in 1927 and moved its venue to the Royal Albert Hall from the Queen's Hall in 1941, which had been destroyed during WWII, and they shaped the unique festival characteristics of the Proms.
Proms 33 concert
The first feature is the enormous number of the concerts that are held during the two-month-long season. There were 76 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall this year, including at least one evening concert and occasional day time and late night concerts, and, when adding the Chamber Music series at the Cadogan Hall, the total number amounted to over 100. When you wish to listen to live music, there is something for you to attend every day during the season.（Program）
Programme Board in front of the hall
The second characteristic is the rich variety of the programme. Based on the idea of Henry Wood, the season is carefully programmed to include everything from familiar classic pieces to contemporary music. More noteworthy, he always included new works every season. He introduced the audience to many works by British composers, such as Elgar, and many works by the leading composers of the day, including Debussy and Richard Strauss, were premiered in the UK by him. 'To keep the repertoire as fresh as possible' and 'to enjoy the sense of discovery' became the tradition of the Proms, that remains in place today. Furthermore, nowadays, the festival welcomes not only British but also international orchestras, soloists and conductors.（Artist list）
People going to the Proms
The third unique aspect is the style of the audience, as symbolized by the name 'The Proms', or 'The Promenade Concert'. To create relaxed, informal atmosphere in which to enjoy music, there is no dress code, and the promenade area of the hall - the Arena (directly in front of the orchestra) and the Gallery (the highest balcony) - are open for people to stand up and listen. Although it is no longer allowed, it was even possible for the audience to drink, eat and smoke during the concerts. Even now, though, 'Promming' tickets are available for only ?5, and up to 1400 people can stand there. This means that, even if all the tickets are sold out, you still have a chance to get in through queuing on the day. You can see long queues outside the hall on the day of a popular concert, including young people in jeans.
Lastly, I would point to the presence of 'Proms Plus', a number of free events held before the main concerts. In 2009, over 70 Proms Plus events took place in conjunction with the main concert, such as pre-concert talks, workshops for families, and films. The Proms Plus events take place in the hall of Royal College of Music, just across the road from the Royal Albert Hall. They are planned to finish an hour before the main concert's doors open, allowing people to go straight to the concert. Let us take a closer look at the Proms Plus.
How will you enjoy - the Proms '+' what?
Programme and ticket
The Proms, which aim 'to present the widest possible range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences', have kept changing for 115 years. When it was sought to expand its repertoire to include non-Western music in the 1960s, concerts devised especially for children were introduced. Pre-concert talks began in the 1970s and concert-related lectures in the 1990s. The 'Proms Family Orchestra' project was launched in 2006, a free family concert has been added to the main Proms concert since 2008, and there was a concert in 2009 featuring 'insects to dinosaurs' to celebrate the bicentenary of Darwin's birth. This has been the most radically growing part of the Proms in recent years, regarding of numbers and varieties. In 2009, all 73 Proms Plus events were divided into 6 categories, and at least one event was held every day.
Leaflet for the Proms Plus and the Family Proms
Proms Intro (31 times)
Each event features composers, conductors, soloists, musical instruments or the theme of the main Proms concert of the day, and explores them through talks with experts, sometimes alongside live music. (e.g. scholars / dance music & choreographer / Alpine Symphony & alpinist...)
Proms Films (8)
Screenings of films and documentaries about music. (e.g. "Singin' in the Rain"/ "The Birth of British Music"...)
Proms composer portraits (4)
A chance to meet the composers whose work will be premiered at the Prom of the day, and listen to the talk and the music.
Children attending the Proms Plus
Proms Literary Festival (16)
Explore the literary and cultural world that surrounds the music in conversation with authors, philosophers, historians and actors.
Family Music Intro (7)
Find out more about the main concert with your family in a fun and entertaining way, and meet the musicians. Children can bring their own instruments and join in. (aged 7+)
-Saturday 25 July: Make a journey from London to the Planets, along with the music by English composers.
-Monday 27 July: Join in the dance music of Czechoslovakia, Russia and Hungary. Bring your dancing shoes.
-Saturday 8 August: National Youth Orchestra plays music by teenage composers.
-Sunday 9 August: Multiple Pianos Day. Find out about music through more than two pianos with 6 pianists.
-Monday 10 August: Listen to the myths and fairy tales that hide behind the music.
-Sunday 30 August: Introduction to the music of the day: concertos and "Pictures at an Exhibition".
-Monday 31 August: Introduction to the ballet music of the day.
Proms Family Orchestra
Proms Family Orchestra (5)
A chance to play alongside your family in an orchestra, regardless of age or ability. Workshops and concerts. (7+)
- Next is the report about 'Multiple Pianos Day'
Report: Chigusa Futako