Beginning in 1895 and this year boasting 76 concerts, the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall (along with 8 chamber music recitals at Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall) is the longest-running classical music concert series in the world. Take that, Germany’s Salzburg Festival, a mere whippersnapper founded in 1920. Pah!
In addition to the regular homegrown British orchestras and world class soloists (Sol Gabetta, Juan Diego Flórez), this season the BBC proms hosts memorial tributes to David Bowie and serialist composer Pierre Boulez. There is also a celebration of the cello with performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Berlioz’s ‘Romeo et Juliet’, plus world class ensembles like the Berlin Philharmonic (conducted by Simon Rattle).
Of the fixed-capacity 6,000 tickets sold for each concert, 1,400 (at just £6) are kept back for ‘prommers’, who queue up to stand in the arena or loll around in the venue’s upper balconies – these areas offer the best acoustics.
There is no dress code at the Proms, so wear comfortable clothes and sensible shoes.
Food and drink are not permitted in the auditorium, but there are 14 bars and catering facilities, so bring plenty of readies. And be sure to order interval drinks in advance – you’ll save yourself 10 percent and a 20-minute wait.
Generally one doesn’t clap between movements of a symphony or song cycle, waiting instead until the conductor has relaxed his/her arms. The rule is: they slump, you slap (your palms together).
If you can’t muster the stamina to sit or stand through hundreds of hours of music, every event is broadcast live on Radio 3 and online, with a selection on Radio 1 and Radio 2, plus BBC One, Two and Four.
The Last Night of the Proms with all the flags may seem like a EuroMillions gathering but the crowd at the event’s closing party have won another type of lottery. Seats can only be attained by buying tickets for five concerts and entering a ballot, or if you’re a season-ticket holder.
Can’t get tickets for the Last Night? Proms in the Park (Hyde Park, that is) offers classical music alongside the likes of ABC, All Saints and Rick Astley.
Our 2016 Proms highlights
The Proms for beginners
Meet the Prommers...
Here’s what happens when Dreambagsjaguarshoes grows up, packs its bags and moves to Dalston. The Victoria is now owned by the same people as the perennially cool and grungy Shoreditch hangout, and probably represents a mellowing out with age – it’s a pub, it’s more relaxed, it stages live music, and it’s on a backstreet off Dalston Lane instead of the illuminated strip down the road. As a pub, it’s decent – an artily thrown-together look, a few local beers (although not many), and a ‘residency’ from peripatetic grillers Psychic Burger. It’s a misleading name – I sat thinking about what I wanted to eat for half an hour before having to go up and order at the bar in the old-fashioned way. But as US diner food in plastic trays goes, it’s a fine example of its type. Through the back of the pub is the stage, where assorted bands assemble to perform. The Victoria has been a scuzzily democratic live music venue for decades, so it’s great that the new owners kept that going and didn’t turn the room into a dining room/yoga space/Tesco Metro.