It has been an extraordinary year for Britain and consequently British music too. Not only have we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the Paraympics but also a spectacular season at the BBC Proms as well. The 118th Prom season closed on Saturday night with an almighty flourish. Whether you enjoy commemorating British tradtions with plenty of flag waving and the Land of Hope and Glory or not, the last night this year proved to be the grandest of finales suitably recognizing British achievements during 2012.
The Proms has enjoyed high attendance this year despite having to jostle for the public’s attention. According to press information, the Proms audiences have averaged 93% attendance for the main evening concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and 51 of the 76 concerts at the RAH were sold out. Impressive considering that this venue holds over 6000 people. More than 300,000 attended the 88 concerts at the RAH and Cadogan Hall. Over 35,000 people bought tickets for the first time this season and over 7,500 under 18s attended concerts across the season. Record numbers of tickets were sold on the first day of sales with over 100,000 tickets purchased.
The Proms does receive substantial publicity and this year was no exception but it seems that audience numbers remain consistently high due to one factor: Prommers enjoy beautiful music performed by world class musicians. The formula works. The Proms frequently changes it’s format and in the last few years especially, more varied programmes have been introduced; John Wilson’s Broadway themed evenings, jazz and world music concerts are a few examples. There is no doubt that these additions have helped keep the largest classical music festival in the world, fresh and interesting.
The world-renowned Last Night of the Proms, led by conductor Jiri Bêlohlávek with the BBC Symphony Orchestra featuring tenor Joseph Calleja and violinist Nicola Benedetti, at the Royal Albert Hall concluded the Proms festival on Saturday night. It was linked to several other concerts namely the Proms in the Park, which are essentially mini Last Night of the Proms held in various parks all around the country; Hyde Park, Glasgow, Caerphilly and Belfast. Observing these events on TV, it was hard not to be impressed by the sheer amount of people who had attended. This flies in the face of all those who believe classical music audiences to be on the decline. On the contrary it appears, and if this kind of enthusiasm can be harnessed correctly then we can hope to witness full houses at classical music performances in the future.
On Saturday evening there was plenty of jolity and celebration as was to be expected at this kind of event but there was also a real feeling of hope and good will. The hightlight for me, however, was saved until last – bringing on to the platform gold and silver medal winning members of Team GB and Paralympics GB as part of the traditional grand finale. Genius! All we needed was the Queen herself to make an appearance….. well there is always next year for that!