Last Night of the Proms points to festival’s more inclusive attitude

Posted on: September 16, 2019

Is London’s Last Night of the Proms concert “still thought to be a showpiece for the British at their most lovably eccentric? Or are today’s politics showing it up in a different light?,” asks Richard Fairman in Monday’s (9/16) Financial Times (U.K.). “Even the titles of the patriotic hymns—‘Rule, Britannia!,’ ‘Land of Hope and Glory’—have taken on a new slant. Attending this glorified concert in 2019 felt quite different to 10 years ago. Take the flag-waving: what was once a display as innocuous as at a church fete has become a competition between [Brexit] leavers and remainers to see whose flag can dominate…. The Proms have made a belated discovery of diversity, and that became the theme of this year’s Last Night…. This year’s [music commission] was Daniel Kidane’s Woke, which sought to channel optimism about racial justice through music that was bold and upbeat…. American mezzo Jamie Barton [brought] tears to the eyes with ‘Over the Rainbow,’ [and] she waved her own flag for bisexuality—literally so at the end, when she picked up a huge Pride flag.… What was remarkable about all this was how joyous it felt. Whatever the politics, the Proms spirit remains unquenched.”

Posted September 16, 2019

In photo: Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton holds a rainbow flag during the traditional “Rule, Britannia!” during the Last Night of the Proms concert on September 14 in London. Sakari Oramo led the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Photo by Chris Christodoulou/BBC