London is a city with literally hundreds of activities. In fact, it can be hard to know where to start, as its events programme is constantly updating and changing with the season or time of year.
Summer is, of course, one of the most popular times of year to go on almost any holiday, but it’s definitely a great time to go to London because there’s even more happening.
There’s something for everyone in London too, as purely due to its size it can host a range of different interests. Whether you’re into fashion, music, theatre, conceptual art or sport, the city will have something for you to do or see.
Specifically though, we want to talk to the music fans out there who are lovers of live classical and musical theatre songs and orchestral scores. We’re referring, of course, to the famous BBC Proms, an eight-week summer season of daily music that takes over London every year.
The BBC Proms is something that is very special to London and the United Kingdom as a whole, as it’s an inherently British institution, similar to Wimbledon, and it invites people from all over the world to take part in its spectacle.
As we said, there are events every day throughout the entire programme, but arguably the best night is the closing evening, which sees Proms in the Park events spread throughout the entire UK. Some years, there are as many as 100 concerts spread across the evening and people gather in their thousands to watch the action live, while millions tune in to watch on the TV.
It really is something that should be experienced live at least once, so we recommend that you book a trip to London around this particularly buzzing time of year.
The 2016 season of The BBC Proms is currently underway and will extend all the way to 10th September. There are more than 90 concerts this year and there is a predominantly Russian focus in the programme of music.
On opening night on 15th July, The Proms kicked off with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, featuring solos on violin and piano. Also featured was Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which was performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard.
Moving forward, you can expect to see the spotlight cast over cellists this year, including Sol Gabetta, who will be playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto. The technique of these musicians is an art – these are people who live and breathe in what they do and The Proms is one of the best ways to see classical music at its best.
This year, there are a lot of British literary anniversaries to remember, such as the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth. However, The Proms has focused on 2016 as the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and has threaded his works throughout much of its programme of events.
Works influenced by his plays include Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. There’s also going to be a special day of Shakespeare-themed works by Purcell, Blow and Locke at Shakespeare’s Globe, which will be performed by Arcangelo.
Other concerts to look out for that are inspired by the playwright include his influence on film music, from Bernstein’s West Side Story to Walton’s Richard III, which is to be presented by Keith Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra.
It is also 50 years since Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink played his first-ever concert at The BBC Proms, so you can imagine this is a big fuss for this year. He is celebrating by raising his baton for Mahler’s Third Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Although not an anniversary, this year marks the first that two pieces written by staff from BBC Music Magazine have been commissioned for The Proms. One is a violin concerto that comes from Malcolm Hayes and the other is a concerto for orchestra from Bayan Northcott, which will be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Music spans all church and orchestra genres and this year is going to pay special attention to Gospel Prom, which will feature a rich legacy of gospel church music. The first version of this event came to The Proms in 2013 and it is back for this year to feature performers from the London Community Gospel Choir.
A particular highlight – one you’ll need to get tickets for early on – is the John Wilson Orchestra, which will be celebrating the music of George Gershwin.
Although it’s spread across many venues in London and beyond, the main venues for The Proms every year are the Royal Albert Hall and Cadogan Hall.
You’ll find the Royal Albert Hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, which has its own Tube stop so you won’t have to search for long to find it.
The Royal Albert Hall just few minute walk away from the Metropolis Hyde Park Hotel.
It has been holding Proms concerts every summer since 1941 and is the face of the concert each year.
Originally opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, it has become one of the UK’s most distinctive buildings for music. It holds more than 5,000 people and, amazingly, is a registered charity held in trust for the nation, receiving no public or government funding.
On the last night of The Proms, you’ll see many of the main performances grace this stage and if you can get a ticket, you’ll have a truly memorable evening. Closing the evening with the BBC Symphony Orchestra will be its chief conductor Sakari Oramo, who will be joined by tenor Juan Diego Fiorez.
Cadogan Hall is smaller, seating 950 people and located on Sloane Terrace in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The resident music ensemble here is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been stationed there since November 2004.
It was in 2005 that it became the main venue for The Proms’ chamber music concerts and you’ll usually find them there on any given Monday during the programme. If you can’t get there during the week, you can enjoy a matinee performance of the choir every Saturday until The Proms finishes.
Interestingly, this venue is Grade II listed and it was the former and first Church of Christ, Scientist church in London, which was completed in 1907.
Other ways to enjoy The Proms
As we said previously, many people enjoy The Proms from the comfort of their own homes, as much of it is televised and the last night is one of the most readily viewed.
However, there is lots to catch up on throughout the entire programme of events and you can tune in to listen to every show, all of which are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, or online at the BBC website.
For extra information about The Proms, including interviews with the amazing conductors who elevate the performance of the orchestra, listen to the official podcast, new episodes of which are released twice a week. There are behind-the-scenes insights, news and reviews too, which are broadcast right from the Albert Hall.
If you are a true fan of beautifully showcased classic and contemporary orchestral music and chamber choirs then The BBC Proms 2016 is something that you are absolutely going to want to see when you’re in London. It’s unmissable.