We have all heard of the 'BBC Proms' and ‘The Last Night of the Proms’ but how many of us know much about this fabulous festival of music that takes place in London and around the UK each year?
The proms were Founded in 1895 by businessman and musical impresario Robert Newman and were originally called "Mr Robert Newman's Promenade Concerts". They are now known as the The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts after Henry Wood, who was hired by Newman as conductor.
Nowadays, each season consists of more than 70 concerts in the Albert Hall, a series ofchamber concerts at Cadogan Hall with associated educational and children's events and additional Proms in the Park events across the United Kingdom on the last night.
Originally, promenading referred to outdoor concerts in London's pleasure gardens, where the audience was free to stroll around while the orchestra was playing. In the context of the BBC Proms ‘promming’ now refers to the use of the standing areas inside the Albert Hall for which ticket prices are much lower than for the reserved seating. Single-concert tickets can be bought only on the day of the concert and currently cost £5.00. Be prepared to arrive early and queue for a long time for well-known artists or works. Alternatively, prommers can buy season tickets for guaranteed entry. A fully utilised season ticket can reduce the cost to £2.60 per concert. Consult the BBC website for details about how and where to buy tickets and a full programme of performances.
I was listening to the radio the other day and got to wondering what has happened in recent years to make the popular music scene so creatively sterile and formulaic. I ended up turning the radio off. An endless stream of vocalists yelling down the microphone, tuneless electronic effects and, samey blandness was more than I could endure.
In my youth I remember tracks being played which I really liked, others I hated and yet others that were just downright silly. For the most part they were the product of creative young minds with something to say about the world. They each had a characteristic style which set them apart from the rest. Popular music was rich with variety and creative energy.
Once upon a time, an aspiring young band or artist would play the local pubs and clubs gaining some popularity. Occasionally they would be lucky enough to be spotted by a talent scout and offered a recording contract. Having gained some popularity and experience, they might make (at their own expense) a demo tape and tout it around recording companies to see if there was any interest. They worked hard. Learning their craft and nurturing their creativity. Recording companies stuck to what they knew best (producing records) and left the creative work to the artists who wrote original material in their own style.
How different it is nowadays. Bands/groups are ‘manufactured’ by the big music companies. They are just as likely to produce a cover of someone else’s work as an original piece. Talent is no longer ‘spotted’. Talent shows and auditions for vocalists take place. Music is played by session musicians or generated on a computer. When an original piece is written it is ‘by committee’ and tailored to entertain a mass market. The music is plastic, bland and without soul.
So have we lost the music?
It would be easy to blame talent shows like the X Factor or The Voice for the decline I have described, and certainly they have played a part in defining what is presented on TV and radio. However, a very cursory look on the internet is enough to reassure oneself that musical creativity is far from dead. So many young artists have set up shop in that most penetrating and versatile medium, that it is bursting at the seams with creative talent.
So the answer to my question is that the music hasn’t gone, it has just moved to a better place. The stuff we are subjected to on the radio and television is the synthetic, shrink wrapped drivel that caters to the hoards of sheep in our society. The sheep who blindly follow the trend and accept whatever mediocrity the big music companies present them with. I suggest we all just turn it off and turn on to the internet.