Prom, a short form for the promenade concert, refers to an eight-week summer period of daily orchestral classical music, as well as other events that are carried out on a yearly basis. Established in 1895, every season is currently comprised of over 70 concerts predominantly in the Albert Hall, while others are carried out as the Park events around the United Kingdom on the Last Night. This was basically aimed at providing ordinary people with an opportunity to listen to classical music. According to Fisher, proms are largest and the most democratic musical festivals in the world (2008). This report seeks to provide an analysis of the Last Night of the Proms. The main focus of the report is on its cultural significance, considering the fact that this is an event that consists of various important aspects regarding the British culture.
Background and the Structure of the Event
The proms are more than just the last night, taking account of the fact that the entire program is more diverse in terms of audience and content. However, most people have the general opinion that the idea of proms was extracted from the Last Night, despite the fact that this concert appears to be very different from the other proms. It is normally conducted on the second Saturday of September. However, it is worth noting that the idea of proms had existed in pleasure gardens in London from the mid 18th century. The first series of indoor proms was organized by Robert Newman in the Queen’s Hall, with the main idea of encouraging the audience for classical concert hall music. The Last Night concert is usually in a lighter, winding-down vein, accompanied by popular classics in the first half of the concert, which is followed by a number of British patriotic pieces within the second half. In the first half of the program, Wagner, Beethoven, Verdi, and Puccini are performed as the audience cheers loudly. The second half starts with some traditional folk songs, Vaughan William’s Sea Songs and a fanfare chorus before the usual closing pieces, Pomp and Circumstance, Rule Britannia!, Jerusalem and the national anthem. Normally, the sequence starts with Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, and proceeds with Fantasia on British Sea Song, that was sung by Sir Henry Wood, and followed by Thomas Arne’s Rule, Britannia. The concert ends with the Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem, and the British national anthem. However, the prommers, or the prom-concert attendants, especially those who stand, have made it a habit to sing Auld Lang Syne after the conclusion of the concert, even though it is not included in the program. This concert is often broadcasted on the television with the first half being broadcasted on BBC2, and the second half being broadcasted on BBC1. The concert is usually conducted in the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Analysis of the Visual Aspect
As I walked towards the Royal Albert Hall, I could see a long queue of prommers dressed in plastic caps and hats that are emblazoned with the union flag. The fancy dressing was an optional extra everything from patriotic T-shirts to dinner jackets was allowed. A great majority of the audience was white; basically the adults, carrying not only the union flags but also French, German, South African and Swedish ones. I could also spot a man holding a flag that had been emblazoned with Olympic Rings. At the far distance, I spotted an Asian couple who were probably great fans of the proms.
At the beginning of the music program, the hall falls silent apart from the sporadic deflating balloons careening through the atmosphere as the audience listens respectfully. However, during the second half of the concert, while performing the climactic anthems, the entire audience is on its feet and the floor of arena looks like a sea of flags; while the collective voice of the crowd floats and swirls across the hall, and was actually moved by the sense of patriotism. For the last song, Auld Lang Syne, I hold hands with those close to me as a sign of unity.
Analysis of the Musical Aspect
The types of songs that are sung during the concert are basically the traditional folk and patriotic ones that are aimed at praising the country. This is a concert that aspires to celebrate Britain and music. However, despite the fact that a majority of the prommers are white, it is evident that this is more than just an ethnic thing, but one that is intended at giving glory to the country. According to the words of Gordon Brown, proms are wonderful, democratic, and quintessentially British. It is one of the concerts that bring people together to celebrate the British religion. Looking at the Fantasia performance, for instance, the lyrics, Home Sweet Home, talk and praise the country. It is also apparent that the national anthem is sung at the second half of the program, to praise the country and to promote the sense of togetherness. I remember these specific words, “Our loved Dominion bless, With peace and happiness, From shore to shore; And let our Empire be United, loyal, free, True to herself and Thee Forevermore”. This is a clear indication of patriotism. Furthermore, traditional folk songs are meant to appreciate British culture and its people. Basically, the Last Night prom aims at celebrating Britain and music.
A specific aspect of interest regards the manner in which these people are so much into celebrating their culture and promote patriotism regardless of the present issue of multiculturalism. It was so touching to see the entire audience sing with such a passion and heart.
At first, hearing about the Last Night proms gives a picture of an event which incorporates the aspect of racial segregation, since it is a concert for the white. One would expect to meet an audience of the whites, wearing and carrying union flags. This basically gives a picture of a racist country where the people are discriminated against on an ethnicity basis. However, despite the fact that it is true that the majority of the audience is white, attending this concert would give a true picture of Britain. This is a multicultural society where all people are appreciated, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
I could spot a few Asians at the concert, who were treated equally as the other participants. Furthermore, nobody complains that some cultural events such as the London Mela have a majority of its attendants from the Asian origin; as well as the Mobo that mainly attracts the black audience. This is just a concert that seeks to allow voters to appreciate their country. One of the participants, a German, actually brought it out that he had been a great fun of the Last Night of the Proms, saying it was his way of expressing fondness to his country. Therefore, the dominant idea that the Last Night of the Proms was a version of the Britishness is a false claim. It would be even better if the non-whites were also equally represented to have a great opportunity to listen to classic music and appreciate it; so as to avert the predominant claim that this is an event for the whites only.
The aspect of multiculturalism concerns communities being composed of multiple cultures. It is also sometimes considered as cultural diversity, to denote the demographic make-up of a particular place. In this case, we consider the aspect of multiculturalism in reference to Britain. This outlines the fact that the British society is comprised of people from different cultural backgrounds, for instance, the Asians, the blacks and the whites. It is therefore expected that in such society, people can learn to appreciate each other's cultural backgrounds and treat all people equally regardless of their differences. Therefore, when in the Last Night of the Proms is a concert that has a majority of the Whites attending; it is important to appreciate such events because it is during such events that the British culture is celebrated. The aspect of multiculturalism has actually averted the idea of Britishness that has for long been associated
Britishness is the quality or state of being British, exemplifying the British characteristics based on its cultures such as behaviors, habits, and symbols. The notion of Britishness came into the light during the late 20th century, associated with the desire to sustain and define a homogenous British identity; something that has generated a lot of controversy including the issues of nationalism and racial equality. With this idea, it was considered that the British were always treated and considered more equal than the other races. Cases of racial segregation were more evident, as it was very difficult to find the whites associating with other cultures. A case in point is the Tory conference, a television program that could actually depict the aspect of Britishness, one that was troubling and alienating. It was basically an event for the whites alone.
However, contemporary multicultural Britain recognizes the diverse cultures existing within its population. Despite the fact that cultural events are carried out for the specific cultures, all people are allowed to attend in appreciation of this diversity. Besides, various policies have been adopted to promote integration and nationalism. For instance, the 1997 New Labour government took heed of the multiculturalism approach by incorporating the issues of multiculturalism in the constitution.
Therefore, despite the fact that the Last Night of the Proms is a concert that is basically associated with the white people as they get together to celebrate their culture; it is very important to have the other audiences featured as well. This is just to allow people from other cultures to appreciate and celebrate Britain and music.
The Last Night of the Prom is a concert that is basically attended by the white people to celebrate British culture. The types of songs that are often sung include traditional folk and patriotic songs to promote peace and the spirit of nationalism. However, despite the fact that that the idea of multiculturalism is being advocated for, considering the fact that this is a society that consists of diverse cultures; the audience for most of the cultural events is still far from depicting the diverse cultural backgrounds. The proms are basically attended by the white; the London Mela has a majority of its attendants from the Asian origin, as well as the Mobo that mainly attracts the black audience. According to the words of the Culture Minister, “the audiences for many of our greatest cultural events, is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this".