Last Night Line-up


0120030908To mark the finale of the 2003 series of Henry Wood Promenade concerts, Leonard Slatkin, music director of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, examines the Last Night of the Proms phenomenon from a variety of angles.

Slatkin has a pedigree as a radio presenter, having fronted his own show while he was in St Louis USA, and made various broadcasts for Radio 3 and 4.

With the aid of material from the BBC Sound Archive, Leonard Slatkin traces the historical development of the Last Night of the Proms to its current status and character.

There are eye-witness accounts of the very first Proms season in 1895.

Richard Baker, who presented coverage of the Last Night for 32 years, recalls a Last Night at the Queen's Hall in 1936, a vibrantly enthusiastic audience, but more reserved and 'responsible' than today.

We hear the only speech ever delivered by Sir Henry Wood at a Last Night - in 1942, 47 years after his first Prom.

The combination of Sir Malcolm Sargent's showmanship, and the arrival of television have been blamed for creating the riotous behaviour of the modern Last Night, but while television undoubtedly stimulated such behaviour, Sargent's one-time manager, Sylvia Darley, insists he had many reservations about the presence of the cameras.

John Deathridge of King's College London reflects on Promenaders' rituals and the determination with which they're observed.

02Essentials20030909A look at the origins of the three musical numbers which are the most essential ingredients of all in the Last Night mix.

American scholar Paul Monod explains how Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia was possibly written in 1740 to express the opposition of Frederick, Prince of Wales to his father George II.

The song really caught on at a time when Britain's defence strategy turned emphatically towards the navy after the Seven Years War against France.

Monod talks about the merit of Rule Britannia being a better National Anthem than God Save the King.

Elgar scholar Michael Kennedy describes the enigma surrounding the placing of the 'Land of Hope and Glory' words to the composer's Pomp And Circumstance March No 1.

Was it Edward VII's idea or that of the indomitable contralto Clara Butt, who claimed the credit? Then there is the matter of the original words as found in fact in Elgar's Coronation Ode.

Hubert Parry's biographer Jeremy Dibble and Women's Institute archivist Anne Stamper tell the tale of how the composer's Jerusalem went from being a 1914-18 wartime propaganda anthem to the theme song of the WI, via the suffragist movement.

03Trading On The Name20030910During the last 20 years The Last Night of the Proms has become a 'brand', exploited by concert promoters and recording companies around the world.

In this programme, Leonard Slatkin hears about 'Last Nights' in Cracow and Kuala Lumpur, as well as the huge number of such occasions around the UK.

They are represented here by conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, creator of the Welsh Proms in Cardiff.

Jenny Bild, BBC World Service's head of music, describes the 'Last Night' parties held in the USA and elsewhere, where the World Service relay of the concert is the centrepiece.

Travel companies bring coachloads of Germans to the Last Night each year.

Barry Holden of Naxos Records (which boasts the best-selling 'Last Night' recording) talks about the enduring appeal of the event to CD buyers worldwide.

How well does the concept travel? How is it adapted, but what must never be tampered with? Why is it quite such a compelling formula? How far has the BBC both defended and exploited the brand?

04Without Whom None Of This Would Be Possible20030911Last Night Line-Up hears from the participants - whether performers, Promenaders, or staff at the Royal Albert Hall.

Superstar soprano, Angela Gheorghiu, talks about the thrill of receiving the invitation to the Last Night, and about her Romanian theme song which will haunt the Albert Hall on September 13th.

British composer, Joseph Phibbs, talks about his new work commissioned for this year's Last Night.

Royal Albert Hall chief executive, David Elliott, explains how the venue gears up for the occasion.

Plus, there are stories and opinions from members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, from stewards and box-office staff at the Albert Hall, and from the Prommers who sleep out on the pavement to ensure they gain pole position in the Hall for the Last Night.

With a bit of luck there will also be a word or two from the merchandise sellers outside the hall.

Presented by Leonard Slatkin

05 LASTThe Future20030912Critics have been arguing about whether the Last Night should be abolished in its present form for decades.

In this final programme, Leonard Slatkin looks back at some of the milestones - such as conductor Sir Colin Davis advocating change in 1967, Andre Previn saying how inspired he'd been by attending the event in the 70s, and composer Malcolm Arnold talking about the work he wrote to try and provide an alternative to the Last Night favourites, which never caught on.

We hear the critical views of Tim Ashley from The Guardian, who feels the Last Night in its present form should be scrapped and be replaced with a more grand, fitting climax to the festival.

Singing 'jingoistic' songs with the cloud of the Iraq war hanging in the air, he says, is unacceptable.

John Deathridge, in contrast, feels the sense of security offered by unchanging tradition outweighs the disadvantages.

One intriguing question needs to be answered by those who want to see an end to the present character of the Last Night - could the brand which is now so successful around the world survive without there being a continuing Royal Albert Hall tradition?