Classical music has always given me the impression that it is only reserved for well-cultured, rich and most of all, boring old people. However, classical music lovers have long been trying to make the music more accessible to everyone.
Promenade concerts had existed in London’s pleasure gardens since the mid 18th century. However, tickets to the concerts were unaffordable to the general public at the time. So in 1895, Robert Newman, a businessman and musical impresario decided to offer low ticket prices and an informal atmosphere where eating, drinking and even smoking were permitted for everyone.
He stated his aim of starting the Proms in 1894 as follows:
I am going to run nightly concerts and train the public by easy stages. Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music.
So there we go, the birth of the Proms which is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts held annually in the Royal Albert Hall, in London, UK.
Nowadays, the Proms tickets can go up to £100 and need to book months in advance. Nonetheless, the practice of ‘Promming’ is an essential part of the Proms, and a unique tradition. For years, promenaders have embraced the experience of queuing for cheap standing tickets for the evening’s concert. They no longer need to physically queue for the 1,350 standing tickets that would be released on the day of the concert, thanks to the internet.
During my visit in the UK, my sister and I happened to get tickets to one of the Proms.
Indeed, Newman’s idea of making it accessible was lived out and carried on. As we entered the hall, and up in the gallery, people were camping out, lying on the floor. Some even brought yoga mats and had a mini picnic before the concert started. It really did make classical music more casual and accessible. As the orchestra stroke the chords, music filled the entire grandiose hall.
The beauty of music is that every one in the hall, no matter their age, gender, background, were listening to the same piece, same note, same melody. Music has this strange power of bringing people together.
If you do get a chance to visit London in the summer, do check out the BBC Proms. It’s worth it.
For more information about the Proms