The Proms kick off on 19 July, launching a season to suit a multitude of tastes. Alongside core rep, the festival has been known to venture into the world of unconventionality: past events have included comedy proms, electronic proms and British folk music proms. This year is no different: from music inspired by the natural world to sci-fi film soundtracks, the wide diversity of events ensures a concert for everyone. Formatting varies too, with concerts that encourage audience movement, make use of dancers and have sign language interpreters. The musical palette has never been wider – so we’ve picked seven of the more unusual stand-out events from this year’s line-up.
The CBeebies Prom
Enthusiastic about bringing new audiences to classical music, the kids’ division of the BBC will be putting on a Prom during the opening weekend of the series to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings. With music from Benjamin Britten and Hans Zimmer, Europe’s first majority Black and Minority Ethnic orchestra – Chineke! – will feature alongside several Cbeebies stars. Also not to be missed… a meeting with the Clangers.
Date: Performed twice, Sunday 21 July and Monday 22 July
Time: 11am (both)
Prom Number: 3 and 5
The Relaxed Prom
Concerts can be intimidating experiences for those with autism, sensory or communication disabilities. This concert offers an informal, friendly atmosphere where you can move about, dance or sing with chill-out spaces outside the auditorium. This unconventional format will include audio description, as well as British Sign Language interpretation, with performances including Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
Date: Tuesday 6 August
Prom Number: 24
The Nature Prom
This Prom is centred around the bestselling book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, in which he seeks to restore disappearing words describing the natural world. As well as new words from the book’s author, there will be live painting from Jackie Morris (creator of the book’s original artwork) and musical birdsong passages from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Rautavaara’s Cantus arcticus and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. With performances from beatboxer Jason Singh, this Prom guarantees a unique experience.
Date: Sunday 25 August
Prom Number: 49
The Duke Ellington Prom
In the last decade of his life, Duke Ellington wrote a series of Sacred Concerts, which he himself described as ‘the most important thing I have ever done’. Combining jazz and spirituality, the concerts aired in the late 1960s and from them spawned three energetic albums. Drawing on these, the Proms are premiering a brand-new Sacred concert, where the legendary musician’s creativity and vigour will manifest in a vibrant melange of big-band jazz and gospel, promising an evening of dance and song. With tap dancing performances, Monty Alexander on piano and vocals from BBC Singers, this concert will bring a modern dynamism to Christian themes.
Date: Thursday 29 August
Prom Number: 54
The Hollywood Prom
Ten years after their first Proms appearance, conductor John Wilson and his orchestra return to host a concert brimming with powerful Warner Bros. film scores from the Golden Age of Hollywood. With pieces from classics such as The Sea Hawk, My Fair Lady and A Streetcar Named Desire, audiences will be plunged back to a time when sweeping orchestral soundtracks defined the atmosphere of film music.
Date: Friday 9 August
Time: Performed twice, 3pm and 7.30pm
Prom Number: 29 and 30
The Breakdancing Music Prom
A dive into ‘the breaks’ – the beat-driven music that has inspired scratch DJs and breakdancing for over 40 years – is the exciting theme for this Prom. As one of the four main elements of hip-hop – along with MCing, DJing and graffiti – breaking has grown into a worldwide sensation, enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures. Involving performances from Soul Mavericks and Mr Switch, this Prom explores the heritage of breaking and its legacy on music today.
Date: Friday 6 September
Prom Number: 64
The Sci-Fi Film Music Prom
This Late Night Prom has a futuristic twist, combining some of the greatest pieces from science fiction soundtracks for an exhilarating evening. The London Contemporary Orchestra, whose collaborators span from Radiohead to Steve Reich, will be performing music from Gravity and Alien: Covenant among others, which will include score extracts by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. For film music fans, this one is not to be missed – airing Friday 9 August at 22:15.
Date: Wednesay 7 August
Prom Number: 27
Written by Nina Green
Louis XIV was crowned King of France in 1654. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch in European history, and he is often seen as the echt example of an absolute monarch – his power, so he perceived, came directly from God. His enthusiasm for the arts brought about musical riches that were the envy of Europe, and influenced composers for years to come.
While the French court was aware of Italian operatic practices, the musical styles that developed there in the late 17th century were considerably different. Castrati were not a common sight in France, and there was a significant emphasis on vocal and instrumental technique rather than the acrobatic, virtuosic performances seen in Italy. Here, we introduce four of the composers present at Louis XIV's court, as well as our recommended works.
The Italian born Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87) – composer, dancer, violinist and comedian – was the architect of the French national style. He became the most powerful musician in France, a true Troubadour of the era, and held a virtual monopoly over court music. His music is known for its power and vivacity: lively in the fast movements, deep and emotional in the slower. He is also credited with the invention of the French overture, a musical form used extensively in the Baroque and Classical eras, particularly by Handel and Bach. He died from gangrene after driving a conducting stick through his foot.
Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) was head of music in the Chapel Royal for longer than any other composer. In this capacity he brought the grand motet – a sacred work pleasing to Louis XIV because of its pomp and grandeur – to its zenith. He delighted in contrasting solo airs with homophonic (all parts moving together like a hymn) semi-choirs, and large choruses using many voices moving independently.
The Hotteterres were a multitalented family of woodwind players, composers and makers, who in about 1670 did a makeover on the flute, oboe and bassoon. This greatly improved the tuning and tone, and enabled players to perform in an increased range of keys. The family’s most celebrated member was Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, whose first published work, Principes de la Flute Traversière (1707) is the first known essay on flute-playing. The Hotteterres wrote lots of tuneful suites and sonatas for wind instruments.
Couperin Le Grand
François Couperin (1668-1733) was the greatest French composer between Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) and the finest composer of chamber music. His exquisite works, likened in their detail to the paintings of Watteau, combine highly ornamented refined melodies with sumptuous harmony. He was known as Couperin ‘the Great’, with the inclusion of the epithet to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family.
This article first appeared in the August 2008 issue of the BBC Music Magazine
For 40 amazing years, the singer Harriet Coleman has presented jazz sessions in and around the Shepperton area. First it was local pubs. Now she uses Bagster House, a capacious social club and has built a loyal audience there for the best of modern mainstream jazz. In earlier times, she ran her sessions weekly, this while holding down a top job in banking, but more recently the gigs were monthly featuring the likes of Jimmy Hastings, Derek Nash, Mark Nightingale et al. But here’s the rub – Harriet is calling a halt and this was her final club presentation.
So, a packed house, much sentiment, grateful words of thanks for her dedication, a tear or two, a sense that all good things must inevitably end. Well, maybe not, for guitarist Nigel Price, that rescuer of apparently lost causes, is to take over from Harriet and was on hand to say so. He’ll start in September when the club will revert to its earlier name of Shepperton Jazz Club. ‘Bravo, Nigel!’, was the cry.
And so to the evening’s musical treat with the presence of Italian-American pianist Rossano Sportiello, a sure-fire favourite with UK audiences ever since he first toured here in 2004. Classically trained , with a delicacy of touch and a gleaming keyboard command that allows him to go wherever his imagination takes him, Sportiello had his loyal confreres Dave Green and Steve Brown alongside. Style-wise, Sportiello offers a compendium of possibilities: he’ll include itemised Tatum runs, back them up with Waller stride, revert to Wilson-ian stateliness, add a hint of Garner’s behind-the beat phrasing and even launch into a spot of boogie. Here, he gauged his audience’s expectations well: sticking closely to the Great American Songbook, taking each song through a series of twists and turns, allowing space for Green and Brown to solo, and then segueing into another. Thus, ‘I Can’t Get Started’ morphed into ‘The Sheik of Araby’, an unlikely conjunction perhaps but it worked here.
There followed a solo ballad reading of another ‘old song’ ‘My Romance’, quietly deconstructed. I’ve heard Sportiello dig deeper than here, swing harder too, but this time it was filigree over ferocity, for sure. This audience loved every minute: a fitting way to say goodbye to Harriet, and hello to Nigel.
– Peter Vacher (Story and Photo)
Donald Macleod introduces six composers who flourished under the rule of Elizabeth I.
The composers of 16th century England flourished under the rule of Elizabeth I, rapidly developing a diverse musical culture unparalleled anywhere on the continent, a truly Golden Age for English music. In this week of programmes Donald Macleod explores six composers who were key to this ascent – Thomas Morley, John Bull, Peter Philips, Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins. These composers were all active at around the same time as the “Father of British Musick” William Byrd and John Dowland, and all either studied or worked with Byrd, but they don’t often receive the same attention as those more famous names.
Morley: It was a Lover and his lass / Hard by a Crystal Fountain / Now is the month of maying; Sing we and chant it; On a fair morning / Cruel, Wilt Thou Persever / Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis from First Service /
Tomkins: Fantasia a 6 no. 18 / Too Much I Once Lamented (for Byrd) / Oft did I marle (c.1622) / Know You Not / Cloris When As I Woo / O Let Me Live for True Love / Be Strong and of good courage / Offertory / Thou Art My King / Pavan “for these distracted times” / The Lady Folliot’s Galliard / Burial Sentences
Bull: Chromatic Pavan and Galliard MB 87a/b / Pavan No 2 (from Parthenia) / Almighty God, Which by the leading of a Star / Fantasia on a fugue of Sweelinck / Coranto – Alarm / Pavan & Galliard “St Thomas Wake”
Philips: Hodie beata Virgo Maria; Surgens Jesus; Ave Verum Corpus / Pavan & Galliard (arr. Philips based on Morley’s originals) / Lasso, non e morir / Amarilli (after G. Caccini) / Gaude Maria virgo / Salve Regina / Pavan & Galliard in memory of Lord Paget / Pavan and Galliard Dolorosa
Gibbons: Prelude in D minor / See, See the World is Incarnate / The Silver Swan (c.1611) / Fantasia No 5 in G minor / O Clap your hands / Lord Salisbury’s Pavan and Galliard from Parthenia / Nay Let me weep (Part 1) / O Lord in thy Wrath, Rebuke me Not
Weelkes: As Vesta was from Latmos Hill Descending / O Lord, Grand the King a Long Life
/ O Care Thou Wilt Dispatch Me (Parts 1 and 2) / Come, Sirrah Jack, ho! / Thule, the period of cosmology – The Andalusian merchant / Death hath deprived me of my dearest friend
Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder: Questi ch’indizio fan del mio tormento
Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Sam Phillips for BBC Wales
For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for England’s Golden Age https://bbc.in/2IpkKNT
And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://bbc.in/2vwHS8q
What do 300,000 records look like? Actually they don’t take up nearly as much space as you’d expect. But we love well-organized catalogs, databases, pristine collections, and finding new music when digging through old records — so we’re excited to work with RE:VIVE and Red Light Radio in Amsterdam, following renowned DJs as they sift through one of the biggest collections in The Netherlands.
RE:VIVE is an initiative from Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid (The Netherlands Institute For Sound and Vision) that connects archives and musicians to create new productions inspired by old collections.
Earlier this year, we brought four (most Electronic) DJs into the archive to poke through 300,000 records and broadcast live sets of their findings. For this edition we tweaked the formula a little, and the focus is specifically on jazz.
Below you can get to know the selectors, hear their sets, and rummage through their playlists on Discogs.
One half of Amsterdam electronic duo Juju & Jordash, Jordan GCZ grew up in Israel listening to jazz. Lots of it. So when he walked into the archive he had a clear mission: to find some Eric Dolphy records. Thanks to the archival efforts of Beeld en Geluid, he found a lot, including two recordings he’d never heard before.
Given his luck in finding two new recordings, my first question was obviously about whether he thinks archives are important. “Definitely. Especially in the disposable digital age we live in. These days new music disappears in the ether way too quickly and I think it’s directly tied to the weakening of the significance of physical formats of recorded music. I believe that in the next couple decades institutes such as these will play an even bigger role in the preservation of cultures and their narratives.”
What’s your fascination with Dolphy, why does his sound resonate so well with you? “Because he starts every phrase with an atomic bomb, he counters every argument with an explosive counter argument. Always has a point to make. Never a wasted bar. He pushed the envelope from within the form.’
A true multi-instrumentalist, Dolphy was a virtuoso in alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute, soprano clarinet, baritone saxophone and piccolo, and had extensive partnerships with Charles Mingus and John Coltrane throughout the early 60s. He also lead many groups – the recordings of which were mostly released on Prestige. In a spooky twist of fate, one of his final recordings, Last Date, was a radio broadcast of a concert in Hilversum in the Netherlands, recorded at VARA Studios – just down the road from where Beeld en Geluid stands today. It was also recorded on June 2.
Other favorites of Jordan’s include Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Miles, Coltrane, and Mingus, “because they were original. All singular voices.” You can hear some of them alongside Dolphy in the recording below, or view them in the set list on Discogs.
Jasper from City Records and Erik from RecordFriend (two Amrsterdam shops down the street from one another) have been spinning records together for over 15 years. The duo has a show on Red Light Radio called Jazzdiggers. With a name like that, you can imagine that Jasper and Erik were in heaven at the archive. They took full advantage of the wall to wall records, putting together a set that would cost about around €5,000 ($5,500 USD) to buy for yourself on Discogs!
They were of course impressed with the abundance of rare gems, like original Blue Note pressings that you would rarely see in the wild, but, like most avid diggers, their greatest moments came from discovering things they’d never heard before. “The element of surprise, not knowing what the music brings you, that’s the nicest things about digging. And it’s even better when you find that certain track that really moves you.”
To them this is also one of the reasons archives like the one at Beeld en Geluid are important to keep alive. It’s always fun to dig through huge collections and find new sounds, but in this context they are important for helping build an understanding of where we’ve come from. Above all, though, Jasper and Erik seemed concerned with making jokes and having a good time. “We didn’t look particularly for records to educate people. I they like them, fine. If not, that’s fine, too! But as far as archives go it’s good to preserve for future generations…although they will probably have a completely different view on preservation than we have now. History has proven this.”
Hear their broadcast below, and browse their (somewhat expensive) selections on Discogs.
Future Vintage is a show on Red Light Radio all about the past, present, and future of soul, jazz, hip-hop, electronic, and psychedelic music. Hosts Radna and Reinier go against the common thread in music / DJ culture of competitive digging for the most ‘rare’ records. “This doesn’t interests us so much. We rather look for interesting relations between various genres, times, labels, voices, sounds, both intuitively as well as based on our personal taste and knowledge.”
A big part of their radio show is in trying to bring together music that combines abstract elements with more accessible ones, a juxtaposition that can be seen in their broadcast from the archive, which places Sun Ra and John Cage next to Quincy Jones and Charlie Haden. “When making a radio show, we have a certain rhythm or build-up in mind, which sets an atmosphere, but also surprises people. We play not always too ‘flawless’ because a sudden change, or a silence or disruption can also wake up the listener and bring back their attention. We’re not too afraid of chasing people away. A surprise can also be something recognizable.”
Given their disposition for linking tropes across genres, the constraint to only choose jazz records was their biggest challenge on the day. “We usually don’t play only jazz. And when we play jazz records, I think we’re more interested in the artists and compositions that push boundaries, and in that way close the space between genres. So a jazz record might have a weird sax sound that links to avant-garde music, or an 80’s new wave song might replicate a jazz instrumentation or feeling. For purists this might be a horrible jazz song, but in our eyes it’s amazing that these people made a jazz song with a punk attitude.”
Even with this constraint, though, I think they managed to pull together a really broad and diverse selection. Their set, the tracklist for which you can find on Discogs, blends a lot of Contemporary, Free Improvisation, Free Jazz, Modal and Post Bop.