The BBC Proms are to venture outside London for the first time since 1930, offering Hull a celebration of Handel’s Water Music.
The Hull Prom, marking its year as the UK’s City of Culture, was revealed at the 2017 season launch where details of 90 concerts over eight weeks were announced.
The Proms director, David Pickard, unveiled a season that will celebrate composers and musicians from Monteverdi to Scott Walker and will, after previous light-hearted Proms devoted to Doctor Who and Strictly, be noticeably short of concerts some people see as gimmicks.
The last time the BBC Proms were outside London was for a season entitled Northern Proms at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, Leeds town hall and the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool, in May-June 1930.
Then it was Sir Hamilton Harty conducting the Hallé Orchestra for 24 concerts, which began with an evening of Wagner and ended with a mixed programme of music from Bach to Berlioz.
This year it will be one concert performed by the Royal Northern Sinfonia and inspired by the 300th anniversary of the first performance of Handel’s Water Music. It will be at the city’s new venue, [email protected], on 22 July.
“It seemed a great opportunity, with Hull as City of Culture, to make a statement about the Proms being for the whole country,” Pickard said.
The Hull concert follows a move last year to have more Prom concerts outside the Royal Albert Hall. “We got as far as Peckham … and Greenwich,” said Pickard, although there have been mini-Proms festivals in Melbourne and Dubai over the past couple of years.
Whether the BBC makes Proms outside London a regular fixture remains to be seen. “It really is a wait and see,” he said. “For many reasons, the Albert Hall is absolutely perfect for us: it has got a capacity of 6,000 seats and we move in there, we set it up for everything we want to do – film, broadcast. The minute we move outside London we set up a whole set of extra costs and infrastructure.”
Pickard and the BBC Radio 3 controller, Alan Davey, were announcing a Proms season noticeably short of concerts of the sort that sometimes bring accusations of dumbing down. In previous years there have been Proms homages to everything from Ibiza dance music to Horrible Histories, but not this year.
Davey said it was a conscious decision reflecting a desire to “let the music speak for itself”.
There was also little evidence that these sorts of concerts acted as a gateway to further classical music Proms. “That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do them,” said Pickard. “But we need to think about nurturing a long-term audience for classical music.
“I’m not saying the Doctor Who Prom won’t come back again. We may well do something like that again but it has to be mixed in with all sorts of other experiments.”
Having said that, there will be a concert popular with Harry Potter fans as Prom 8 will celebrate the 85th birthday of John Williams, whose film scores include Star Wars, Jurassic Park and the Potter films.
Among the anniversaries celebrated this year will be Monteverdi at 450, John Adams at 70 and Philip Glass at 80. There will also be concerts marking 100 years since the Russian Revolution, featuring the music of Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov; the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence; and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
• The BBC Proms season runs between 14 July and 9 September. General booking opens on 13 May
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