The Proms

Monday, August 27, 2012

A willingness to stand through 3 hours of art is something I first witnessed at Shakespeare’s Globe when my ever-indulging German buddy and I went to see Henry V a few months ago. It didn’t matter that we walked into the play having no idea what it was about, or that our £5 groundling tickets meant we had to stand up for Shakespeare. After seeing the incredible interpretation and delivery of this play we’d never studied in school, I decided I’d stand for Shakespeare any day.

London truly succeeds at bringing high quality, priceless art to an attainable level through their free museums, inexpensive tickets to theatre, and The Proms. Yep, prom.

The Proms began in 1895, when Robert Newman decided that the general public deserved concerts too, so he started a concert series with cheap ticket prices and a more informal setting. He was quoted as saying,

I am going to run nightly concerts and train the public by easy stages. Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music. (Ivan Hewett, Telegraph, 12 July 2007)

Thanks for training us, Robert. The Proms have now morphed into the BBC Proms, an almost 2 month series of daily concerts that are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. People stand in line for hours to get standing tickets (called Promming) for concerts featuring their favourite composers, orchestras, conductors, you name it. There’s just something wonderful about seeing people stand in line for classical music, and the nightly concerts facilitate such a camaraderie between the concert-goers. We even overheard one man asking another, “Were you here last night for…?” Happy heart.

Line outside of Royal Albert Hall for Britten’s Peter Grimes

The night we attended, the performance was of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, a dark English opera about a fisherman accused of murdering his apprentice. I can’t imagine the excitement of quickly preparing an entire opera for a one-night only performance, but we could see the physical relief of everyone involved during the final curtain call. The audience seemed to clap for ages, praising the artists for their successful rendition of this difficult work. It was beautiful to see such passion shared with a packed audience who truly appreciated the music.

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