Last Night of the Proms will go ahead live at the Royal Albert Hall

From virtual orchestras to socially-distanced performances, there‘s a new look for Proms 2020

Written by
Alexandra Sims

Don’t pack away your Union Jack flags yet! The Proms will still be going ahead this year, with Last Night of the Proms broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall, but expect it to look very different from the concerts we’ve known before.

The organisers of the longest-running classical music concert series in the world, which turns 125 this year, have revealed plans for a new, digitised version of the Proms involving eight weeks of broadcasts across television, radio and online from July 17 to September 12. 

The programme includes a special First Night commission marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. The new digital mash-up of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, created by Iain Farrington, will be played by a Grand Virtual Orchestra made up of 350 musicians from all five BBC orchestras – BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra Of Wales and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – as well as the BBC Singers.

Things will start to look a bit more like the Proms of the past from August 28 when musicians will start playing live at the Royal Albert Hall for the final two weeks of the season. All performances will work within government guidelines which means the solo and ensemble shows from some of the world’s greatest musicians will be socially-distanced and happen in an empty auditorium, but they will still culminate in a ‘poignant and unique Last Night of the Proms to bring the nation together’.

Prommers will also have access to a whole slew of archive performances throughout the duration of the new-look Proms. Radio 3 will broadcast past concerts every evening and standout archive concerts will be shown weekly on BBC Four. Music lovers will also be able to watch and listen to past Proms on demand on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds, and be asked to share their favourite memories of the Proms. 

David Pickard, director of the BBC Proms, said: ‘These are challenging times for our nation and the rest of the world, but they show that we need music and the creative industries more than ever. This year it is not going to be the Proms as we know them, but the Proms as we need them. We will provide a stimulating and enriching musical summer for both loyal Proms audiences and people discovering the riches we have to offer for the first time.’

This year’s classical-fest may not be quite what we’d expected, but at least we’ll still be able to wave our flags at home – and beat the huge queues. 

BBC Proms will be broadcast from Jul 17-Sep 18. More details about the programme will be announced in due course. 

In other virtual music news, Glastonbury is celebrating its fiftieth year with best ever performances added to iPlayer

Donate to this new nationwide campaign to help small music venues survive.

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