Six Famous Last Nights
The Queen’s Hall was destroyed in 1941 but the Proms survived, sponsored by the BBC. Sir Henry Wood gave a speech of thanks at the end in the new venue, the Albert Hall.
Malcolm Sargent, chief conductor of the Proms since 1947, appeared from his terminal sick-bed to announce his re-appearance the following year. The gods had other plans.
Sir John Drummond commissioned a piece from Harrison Birtwistle for the first half of the Last Night but Panic was performed in the sacred second half! The phones were jammed.
Nicholas Kenyon took the Proms outside to a different audience. The Last Night now appeared like a pop concert in the park.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Last Night programme on 15 September was changed, omitting ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ and including Barber’s Adagio.
Marin Alsop made history by becoming the first woman to conduct the Last Night. In her speech she said ‘I’m incredibly honoured and proud to have this title, but I have to say I’m still quite shocked that it can be 2013 and there can still be firsts for women … Here’s to the second, third, fourths, fifths, hundredths to come.’
Original text by Roderick Swanson