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What are the Proms?

The Proms, short for The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, are a beloved British summer tradition of daily orchestral classical music concerts. Spanning eight weeks, they showcase a rich tapestry of performances from global talents, culminating in the patriotic Last Night of the Proms. Curious about the magic behind this musical marathon? Discover how The Proms became a cultural cornerstone. Keep reading to explore their history and charm.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Proms are a series of concerts held during the summer in England every year over the course of an eight week period. The bulk of The Proms takes place at the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington, London, where 70 concerts are performed over the course of The Proms, but events take place all over England in a wide variety of venues. While originally designed to showcase orchestral music, The Proms has since expanded, and events now include world music, jazz, rock, opera, and a variety of musical stylings.

This famous British concert series has been held since 1895. The original goal of The Proms was to introduce classical music to the general public, by making tickets cheap and the venue accessible. Conducted by Henry Joseph Wood, The Proms debuted to great fanfare, with a venue specifically designed to allow guests to promenade during the concerts, often socializing, eating, and drinking while the music was played. Henry Wood is often credited with shaping the modern proms, and a bronze bust of him sits in front of the conductor's podium during The Proms as a mark of respect for his accomplishments.

The Proms take place all over England every summer.
The Proms take place all over England every summer.

Officially, The Proms are known as the BBC Proms, or the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. The Proms are often broadcast on BBC stations, especially on the last night, when the Last Night concert features an assortment of patriotic music and classics of British orchestral music.

The Proms have endured two World Wars, shifting values in the musical community, and social upheaval in Britain. While the focus continues to be on bringing orchestral music to the British people, the expansion into other musical genres was met with great excitement in the musical community, and The Proms also offers events specifically designed for children and families to get young people interested in music. Young musicians are showcased at The Proms, as are debuts of new musical works, many of which are commissioned by the BBC specifically for The Proms.

While many of the concert-goers remain seated in the modern Proms, the tradition of promenading still endures in the form of “promming,” or standing directly in front of the stage. Promming tickets are usually available at low cost on the day of any event, although it is also possible to purchase season tickets. For concert-goers, a Grand Slam, which involves attending every single Proms concert in the season, is sometimes a lifelong goal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Proms and when do they take place?

The Proms, officially known as the BBC Proms, are an annual series of classical music concerts held primarily at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They typically run for eight weeks, starting in mid-July and ending in September. The Proms are renowned for their informal atmosphere and wide range of music, aiming to make classical music accessible to a broad audience.

How did the Proms get their name?

The Proms derive their name from the term "promenade concert," which originally referred to outdoor concerts in London's pleasure gardens, where the audience was free to stroll around while the orchestra played. The indoor Proms maintain a similar spirit, with standing areas where attendees, known as "Prommers," can enjoy the performance on their feet, promenading if they wish.

What is the significance of the Last Night of the Proms?

The Last Night of the Proms is the final concert in the series and has become a significant cultural event in Britain. It features a mix of classical pieces and patriotic music, including well-known works like "Rule, Britannia!" and "Land of Hope and Glory." The event is celebrated for its festive atmosphere, with many attendees dressing up and participating in sing-alongs, reflecting a sense of national pride and musical tradition.

Can anyone attend the Proms, and how do you get tickets?

Yes, the Proms are open to everyone, and tickets can be purchased through the Royal Albert Hall website or by phone. There are various ticket options, including season passes and day tickets for "Promming," which are available on the day of the concert. These standing tickets are particularly affordable, making the Proms accessible to a wider audience. For those unable to attend in person, many concerts are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and available on BBC iPlayer.

Are the Proms only for classical music?

While the Proms are primarily focused on classical music, they have increasingly incorporated a diverse range of genres, including jazz, world music, and even film scores. This variety reflects the festival's commitment to broadening its appeal and encouraging wider appreciation for different forms of music. Each year, the Proms schedule includes themed concerts and special events that showcase this musical diversity.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MusicalExpert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MusicalExpert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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    • The Proms take place all over England every summer.
      By: drx
      The Proms take place all over England every summer.