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Last Night Will Be a First in BBC Proms’ 125-Year History

September 8, 2020

BBC Proms’ “COVID-19 edition” will wind up on Sept. 12 with a Last Night that will be as different from all previous years as is the festival itself. This year, all but the last two weeks of the festival consisted of repeat broadcasts, and then it offered streaming of recently recorded performances.

For Last Night at the Proms, instead of a raucous audience of 6,000 in the Royal Albert Hall, viewed by millions in the U.K. and heard around the world, it will be streamed, and the BBC is organizing a virtual audience to participate in a way that’s both funny and sad:

Due to current COVID-19 government guidelines, we are sadly unable to host an audience at the Royal Albert Hall this year, BUT the show goes on, and this is where you come in ...

We are looking for groups of two or more from the same household or social bubble to film themselves at home celebrating BBC Last Night of the Proms. Detangle your bunting, don your most show-stopping outfits, and proudly wave your flags to see out the 2020 season in style! Put yourself in Proms party mode and lend us your applause!

To be considered to take part, we will ask you to submit a 15-second video of yourselves applauding and cheering at home. Details on how to submit your video to us will be sent to you after you submit your interest via email. This is your chance to be in our audience, virtually and safely, so make yourselves stand out from the crowd, and have fun with it!”

Instructions specify using landscape orientation, “ensuring your video is well-lit and that we can see you all clearly in shot, with no distracting background noise or music playing. Avoid wearing clothing with branding or logos, and avoid copyrighted artwork in the background where possible, including but not limited to posters, paintings, and book or DVD covers.”

What made news in recent days, well beyond musical circles, is Last Night’s traditional finale: 6,000 voices raised in the patriotic (or imperialist, depending on point of view) songs of “Land of Hope and Glory,” set to Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, and “Rule, Britannia!” James Thomson’s poem, set to music by Thomas Arne in 1740.

As statues of slave traders are being torn down in the U.K., the BBC first decided not to have the texts sung with the songs, then more recently modified that again, saying both compositions will be performed with a small group from the BBC Singers. Listen and see what happens.

As to the season-ending programs, listen at 11 a.m. Pacific, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_radio_three:

Monday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/rxxnc8/by/date/2020/09/07

Tuesday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/rxxnc8/by/date/2020/09/08

Wednesday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/rxxnc8/by/date/2020/09/09

Thursday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/rxxnc8/by/date/2020/09/10

Friday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/rxxnc8/by/date/2020/09/11

Saturday, Last Day/Night at the Proms: https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/rxxnc8/by/date/2020/09/12

Past broadcasts of the “live” portion are available here.

And, for a while, podcasts are available here.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].