The BBC has confirmed that the Last Night of the Proms will feature Thomas Arne’s ‘Rule, Britannia!’, Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’ in its programme. However, ‘Rule, Britannia!’ will be performed as part of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea-Songs, and not sung by a soprano soloist. Land of Hope and Glory, the principal theme from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, will be newly arranged by Anne Dudley, while Errollyn Wallen is working on a fresh arrangement of ‘Jerusalem’.
The BBC Proms are about to embark on two weeks of live music-making at the Royal Albert Hall, although none of the concerts will be attended by a live audience. The Last Night will also be performed to an empty hall – but broadcast as usual on BBC One and BBC Radio 3. ‘With much reduced musical forces and no live audience,’ the BBC said in a statement, ‘the Proms will curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as ‘Jerusalem’ and the National Anthem, and bring in new moments capturing the mood of this unique time, including ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, presenting a poignant and inclusive event for 2020.
There had been speculation in the press that the BBC would seek to quietly drop ‘Rule, Britannia!’ in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. The culture secretary Oliver Dowden commented on social media on 24 August that he shared concerns of many about the potential removal of ‘Rule, Britannia!’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, and that he had raised this with the BBC.