No Audience, No Singing for BBC’s Last Night of the Proms

BBC's Last Night of the Proms

Despite recent speculation, the BBC has confirmed that the Last Night of the Proms will go ahead as normal, with Rule Britannia and Land of Hope & Glory – but with no singing.

It had been reported in the media, and became a hot topic on social media, that the BBC were to cut Rule Britannia and Land of Hope & Glory from the renowned annual Last Night of the Proms concert as a result of the “Black Lives Matter” protests around the world.

The BBC had previously come under fire for deleting programmes from its BBC iPlayer service for the same reason, and dropping programming from its schedules for fear of causing offence.

After it had been reported that the BBC were considering dropping the two patriotic songs of British historical value, this year’s principle conductor of the Proms Dalia Stasevska came under attack on social media.

In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said; “We very much regret the unjustified personal attacks on Dalia Stasevska, BBC Symphony Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor made on social media and elsewhere. As ever, decisions about the Proms are made by the BBC in consultation with all artists involved.”

Edward Elgar originally composed Land of Hope and Glory for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901, when it was known as the “Coronation Ode”, but after its postponement, Elgar used it to form part of his globally renowned Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. The lyrics were written by author AC Benson.

Rule Britannia, originally composed as a poem by James Thomson in 1740 and then converted into a song by Thomas Arne is based heavily on the Thomson work of 1730 called The Tragedy of Sophonisba. In that work, Princess Sophonisba – a powerful ancient princess of Carthage – commits suicide rather than become enslaved by the Romans.

The BBC Spokesperson added; “The Proms will reinvent the Last Night in this extraordinary year so that it respects the traditions and spirit of the event whilst adapting to very different circumstances at this moment in time.”

No Live Audience

It is difficult to imagine how a Last Night of the Proms will look, sound and feel without the atmosphere of a Royal Albert Hall packed full of Promenaders bobbing up and down to the now familiar annual playlist of classical classics.

The BBC’s spokesperson went on to say; “With much reduced musical forces and no live audience, the Proms will curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as Jerusalem and the National Anthem, and bring in new moments capturing the mood of this unique time, including You’ll Never Walk Alone, presenting a poignant and inclusive event for 2020.

“The programme will include a new arrangement by Errollyn Wallen of Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem alongside new orchestral versions of Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 Land of Hope and Glory (arr. Anne Dudley) and Rule Britannia! as part of the Sea Songs, as Henry Wood did in 1905.

“The Proms is delighted to announce that violinist Lisa Batiashvili will be joining soprano Golda Schultz, conductor Dalia Stasevska and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the Last Night performing favourite works from the repertoire including Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending.”

At least the BBC Proms have kept the traditional sea shanties, something that BBC Radio 4 abandoned to much dismay in 2006 when it stopped playing the “BBC Radio 4 UK Theme” in favour of an extended morning news bulletin.

Last Night of The Proms – 12th September
The Royal Albert Hall, BBC Radio 3 and BBC One at 8pm

Conductor Dalia Stasevska appears with soprano Golda Schultz, violinist Lisa Batiashvili, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro – overture; Deh vieni, non tardar
Richard Strauss: Morgen!
Andrea Tarrodi: Solus (BBC commission: world premiere)
Stephen Sondheim: A Little Night Music – Night Waltz; The Glamorous Life
Jean Sibelius: Impromptu for strings
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
Trad. Romanian: arr. Stephan Koncz The Skylark
Trad.: arr. Henry Wood Fantasia on British Sea-Songs

i. The Saucy Arethusa
ii. Tom Bowling
iii. Jack’s the Lad
iv. Sequence of sea songs from around the UK
v. See, the conqu’ring hero comes
vi. Rule, Britannia!

Edward Elgar, arr. Anne Dudley: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major (Land Of Hope And Glory)
Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II: Carousel – (You’ll Never Walk Alone)
Hubert Parry, arr. Errollyn Wallen: Jerusalem
arr. Benjamin Britten: The National Anthem

This article was originally written for News on News, and republished here after it was first published there.