The Proms is 118 years old and still packing the Royal Albert Hall over the course of its annual two-month season, this year running from 13 July to 8 September. Standing – not sitting – for each one of the 78 concerts will be the Prommers, those hardy stalwarts who pay no more than a fiver for their front-of-house spot. Each week over the next two months, one of the hardiest, our Secret Prommer, brings you his view from the floor…
There’s no doubt the best place to enjoy ‘the world’s greatest classical music festival’ is standing literally a matter of feet from the world’s greatest conductors, soloists and orchestras. It’s this very intimacy – in such a huge venue – that lends Prommers their feeling of ‘ownership’. These are as much our concerts as the BBC’s. The finest fiddlers and flautists play uniquely for those of us standing head-height to their kneecaps.
Yeah, yeah, you may have bought seats already, and fair play to you. The Proms experience is unlike concert-going anywhere else in the world. You may have bought a season ticket, in which case congratulations – you can potentially see all 76 concerts for an astonishing 50 bob a throw. But if you fancy an evening of great music at no more than a fiver, you can join the day queue (up the left-hand side of the south steps, or along Bremner Road if you wish to take the view from the gallery). Simply pitch up and line up (remembering that if it’s, say, Simon Rattle or John Wilson, the queue will already be snaking along Prince Consort Road at the crack of dawn). Take a raffle ticket from one of the Hall’s redcoats, so you and your neighbours know where you are in the queue.
You’ll be ushered into the Hall 45 minutes before the concert, so you can take your place, stand, and enjoy. Wear sensible shoes or bring something soft to stand on – a towel or some such. The five and a half hours of Berlioz’s The Trojans will seem a lot longer if you’ve got sore feet.
You may want to come and hear some old favourites: Beethoven’s symphonies in a single week, for example. Perhaps new music is your forte: well, there’s plenty of that. Ancient? World? Opera? Broadway? Hollywood? It’s all there. It’s all happening at Kensington’s great gasometer and it’s going to be a truly great summer of music.
Can’t make it? I’ll be standing there on your behalf. See you next week.
The Secret Prommer’s Proms Highlights
We spill the beans on the top 10 Proms to see this year
The Opening Weekend
A characteristic blockbuster opening to the season – from the First Night’s conductor relay (four conductors ‘pass the baton’ in the all-English concert) to Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande via Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady – and the reason the Weekend Promming Pass was invented!
Prom 1, Friday 13 July, 7.30pm • Prom 2, Saturday 14 July, 7.00pm • Sunday 15 July, 7.00pm
*SINFINI’S MUST SEE*: Beethoven in a week
Three Bs: Beethoven, Boulez and Barenboim. The great conductor and humanitarian leads his astonishing orchestra through the greatest of all symphony cycles, with illumination from the French modernist master.
Prom 9, Friday 20 July, 7.30pm • Prom 10, Saturday 21 July, 7.30pm • Prom 12, Monday 23 July, 7.30pm • Prom 13, Tuesday 24 July, 7.00pm • Prom 18, Friday 27 July, 6.30pm
Wallace and Gromit present their own Prom, complete with a major BBC commission: Wallace’s My Concerto in Ee, Lad. Should be cracking!
Prom 20, Sunday 29 July, 3.30pm
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain reliably provide an annual Proms highlight and this year bring a wide-ranging programme built around Messiaen’s exotic, erotic Turangalîla Symphony.
Prom 29, Saturday 4 August, 7.30pm
Anybody Welsh who’s ever raised a voice or instrument in anger will be taking part in this performance of Leonard (West Side Story) Bernstein’s weirdest and most compelling creation, his 1971 Mass.
Prom 32, Monday 6 August, 7.00pm
Three VW symphonies
Rediscover a composer we all think we know, as Andrew Manze takes his Scottish players through Vaughan Williams’s Fourth, Fifth and Sixth – the 20th century’s most important symphonic trilogy.
Prom 46, Thursday 16 August, 7.30pm
John Cage uncaged
Making music with everything from tape recorders to an amplified cactus. The rest is silence.
Prom 47, Friday 17 August, 7.45pm
Best of Britten
Britten’s brooding early masterpiece Peter Grimes should make for a gripping performance as the hugely talented conductor Edward Gardner brings ENO’s production down from St Martin’s Lane.
Prom 55, Friday 24 August, 7.00pm
John Wilson and his hand-picked orchestra return with an unmissable sequence of songs from the Great White Way.
Prom 59, Monday 27 August, 8.00pm
The flamboyant Cameron Carpenter adds his own kink to music by and based on Bach in a pair of afternoon concerts.
Prom 66, Saturday 1 September, 4.00pm • Prom 68, Sunday 2 September, 4.00pm
Head to the BBC Proms website for full details.
Secret Prommer #5: Sore backs and soaring hearts
Secret Prommer #4: Silence is golden (sometimes)
Secret Prommer #3: Coughs and sneezes spread resentment
Secret Prommer #2: Those Beethoven blues
Secret Prommer #1: Proms preview