BBC Proms History

The BBC Proms or The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC is an informal orchestral classical music concert held at Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington, London. This Promenade last for a period of eight weeks and the Prommers can enjoy the music by spending just a few dollars. The prom may include more than 70 concerts and in the year 2009 it reached to a maximum number of 100 concerts in the prom season.

The history of the BBC Prom

The very first Prom took place in the queens Hall in Langham Palace on the 10th h of August 1895. This first prom took place under the uspices of impresario Robert Newman. He, who was the manager of the newly built Queens Hall, started the prom with the aim of attracting more and more people to enjoy the classical music and he worked for this goal by providing low priced tickets and also allowed, eating, drinking and smoking and this indeed was an attraction to the common man who otherwise never did attend the classical concerts which were too formal for them.

Planning the first Proms

Robert Newman hired Henry Wood, an organist, accompanist, vocal coach and conductor of choirs, orchestras and amateur opera companies, to conduct the new series of nightly concert called the' Mr. Robert Newman's Promenade Concerts'. And it was in 1895 February that Mr. Wood was given the first Proms Season and the permanent orchestra at the Queens Hall. Mr. Newman also decided on the ticket price of one shilling per concert or one guinea for the whole season which was indeed too affordable by the common man. He also made the prom more attractive by permitting eating, drinking and smoking which were not permitted at other formal and expensive proms. His plan was to introduce common and popular opera to the people and then slowly changing rising it to serious and classical ones. He foresaw that this was the best way to introduce more people into the world of classical music.

The first Season of the Prom

The first season of Prom started in the second week of August 1895. This prom usually lasted up to a full three hours with the first half presenting more serious and high level music, the second half was the Grant Fantasia, which were small pieces of music extracted from well known operas. Both Newman and Wood introduced the audience to a wide range of good music and Mondays provided a treat of Wagner music and on Friday it was Beethoven Night.

The Prom enter the BBC

It was in the year 1927 that the BBC took over the running of the concert after the Chappell's announced the withdrawal of the financial support. Up to three years after the BBC took over the concert, "Sir Henry Wood and His Symphony Orchestra' presented the concert. And it was in 1930 that the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO) was formed and later this became the leading orchestra for the concert. And during this time many feared that the airing of the concert would reduce the number of live audiences which in fact did not happen. Each night was dedicated to a particular composer; Fridays and Mondays carrying on the tradition and Sunday was decided as a no concert day.

BBC withdrew its support from running the Prom just three days after the outbreak of the World War II. But the Prom continued its concert by support through private financers and under this private sponsorship, the 1940 and 1941 season was decided to be conducted. Even though the 1940 prom started as decided, with the London Symphony Orchestra, it could only complete a period of four weeks due to intense air raids and the Queens hall was gutted in a Luftwaffe bombardment on 10 May 1941.

In the following season the concert was transferred to the Royal Albert's Hall, the only available one in London and BBC reintroduced its hand of support. From then on the orchestra has been conducted in the same place, though from 1944 till the end of the war, it was temporarily transferred to Bedford Corn Exchange.

After the War

After the end of the war, a few changes were introduced to the conduction of the proms, the traditional Wagner night was removed and Viennese evening and Composer anniversaries started to be introduced. Though Malcolm Sergeant from the BBC Orchestra gave most of the performance, there was a gradual increase in other orchestras taking part in the prom. Manchester's Hallé Orchestra, under Sir John Barbirolli, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Liverpool Philharmonic were some of the orchestras which gave their performances in the first few years after the end of the war.. Influential figures like Basil Cameron, Charles Groves, Colin Davis, Norman Del Mar, Charles Mackerras began to appear at the BBC Proms.

Reaching new heights

In the year 1959 after the appointment of William Glock as the BBC Controller in Music, the prom stated to accommodate more styles of music from around the world. Many experimental styles were also presented. And in the next five years, the number of new musical works was introduced. And from 1961 the BBC commissioned the introduction of new works each season facilitating the audience to enjoy the latest trends in the world of music.

In 1994, the hundredth year of the prom, still live and loud was celebrated and today the BBC prom is broadcasted live BBC Radio 3, on air and online, and many concerts are broadcasted on BBC Television. 

As Robert Newman said" "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." Watching the audience for the prom we can know that his dream has indeed become a success among the people. Today, 115 years after the introduction of, the Prom or the so called BBC Proms, it has become one of the most loved and most attended concert, with many variation of music presented by a number of well known and talented musicians.