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The fat lady, singing

Saturday night was the last night of the Proms AKA Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts AKA The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC AKA The BBC Proms.

In 1895, Robert Newman, manager of the Queen’s Hall in London, decided he would sucker the general public into liking highbrow music by offering a series of cheap but excellent concerts, starting with popular music and getting snootier by the day. One of those worthy Victorian deals.

Together with a conductor named Henry Wood, he put together a whole season’s worth of music (a shilling – 5p – for a single concert or £1.05 for the lot). There were Wagner nights and Beethoven nights and new music and young performers. People were allowed to eat and drink and smoke and mill around. It was an altogether superb idea, and it stuck.

Today’s Proms are eight weeks long (70 concerts this year!) and are held in the Royal Albert Hall (and on television, of course). They still feature new works and young performers (Wagner, not so much) and it’s still pretty informal.

At least, the last night was. That’s the bit everyone watches. The lefties have been trying to stick a sock in the last night of the Proms since forever, but they haven’t kilt it yet. They end the whole thing by dressing stupid and waving flags and blowing horns and singing patriotic songs and letting off fireworks. I mean, the audience, too.

This lady (here she is swinging an axe for some reason) led the crowd in Rule Brittania. And there was God Save the Queen and Land of Hope and Glory (we know that one as Pomp and Circumstance) and Jerusalem (Blake’s schitzy vision of Jesus walking around England).

Not just in the packed Albert Hall, but there was a crowd of something like 300,000 crammed into Hyde Park listening in, too. It did me a world of good to see all those happy, pasty faces waving flags and singing their little Limey hearts out.

September 12, 2011 — 9:30 pm
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