To mark the opening of this year’s BBC Proms Festival, Westminster Music Library played host to a fascinating talk by author Paul Campion about this most enduring of British musical institutions.
Founded over 100 years ago by Sir Henry Wood and Robert Newman, the Proms rapidly became a popular way for enthusiasts of all ages to hear a wide range of the world’s greatest music.
Over the years most of the world’s top musicians have taken part in this amazing Festival – in the early days of the century at the Queen’s Hall in London’s West End and later at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington. Proms audiences are the most enthusiastic anywhere and the concerts, broadcast nightly by the BBC, are heard in many countries overseas.
Since Wood’s time, celebrated conductors such as Sir Malcolm Sargent have led the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and in recent years many singers and players from further afield – including New York, Vienna and Moscow – have taken part. Yehudi Menuhin, Janet Baker and Felicity Lott are just a few of the great names to have participated over the last twenty seasons.
Our guests were also treated to a special exhibition of books, concert programmes and journals from the shelves of Westminster Music Library and Westminster City Archives, a selection of glorious musical experts, and some interesting facts about the Proms:
- The first Prom concert in 1895 featured 25 separate musical items
- Sir Henry Wood conducted 50 consecutive seasons of the Proms
- In 1944 some Proms were broadcast from Bedford because of the bombing in London
- Jacqueline du Pré made her Proms debut at the age of 18 in 1963
- In 1974 a member of the audience took over from baritone Thomas Allen who was taken ill during a performance
- The Royal Albert Hall can accommodate over 5,000 people – but many millions hear and see the concerts on BBC radio and TV
It may be raining outside, but this is one festival you won’t need your waterproofs for.