If you’re lucky enough to visit London during the summer months, going to the Proms is a British tradition you won’t want to miss. The Proms, now sponsored by the BBC, originally began in 1895 and has since become the largest classical music festival anywhere in the world. With more than 70 concerts, talks and children’s events – and with tickets often the same or less than a movie ticket – it’s no wonder that people from every walk of life turn up at the Royal Albert Hall throughout July, August and September to enjoy a bit of culture.
The term prom is shorthand for promenade. When these performances first began, audience members promenaded in various parts of the concert hall along with the music. There are still “prommers” today – only these are people who purchase standing-room only tickets the day of the show. Since these events were originally intended to bring together people of all classes, it’s only fitting that you can now purchase expensive seats down front and wear your tux, or cheap stalls up top and wear a polo shirt and slacks, or somewhere on the side to stand in jeans and a t-shirt. Music brings the masses together for these very special occasions. Attending each and every Prom gives you “full house” status – and a small group of individuals achieves this each year.
In 2006, July 14 ushers in the season and September 9 marks the infamous “last night” (in which patriotic songs are sung and played and everyone waves their Union Jacks). Mozart will be featured during this year’s 250th celebration of his birth, as will Shostakovich on his 100th. “Proms in the Park” takes place on the last night as well, in London’s Hyde Park and in four other major cities simultaneously.
To attend, the BBC website lists information for purchasing tickets. If you cannot attend at the Albert Hall, you can listen in daily via the radio or internet, courtesy of BBC Radio 3.