As if creating the ultimate companion to this year’s BBC Proms wasn’t enough, we wanted to inform and delight you with some of our favourite pieces of obscure Proms trivia. Let’s get cracking…
1. The Proms Fountain
Dr. George Cathcart, who financed the first ever Proms, also introduced a fountain in the centre of the arena in 1927 to improve the humidity and temperature for the performers. There were goldfish in the pond up until the early 90s when they started mysteriously dying. After that, prommers filled the pond with inflatable animals, until it was removed in 2010 to increase audience capacity.
2. The First Prom
The first Prom took place on 10 August 1895 in the newly built Queen’s Hall in Langham Place, London. The very first piece to be performed was Wagner’s Rienzi Overture.
3. Five pence, please
In the early days, promming tickets cost one shilling (5p) for a single concert, or a guinea (£1.05) for a season ticket.
4. A new home
The Proms moved to the Royal Albert Hall in 1941 after the Queen’s Hall was destroyed by a bomb during the London Blitz. The first Proms concert in the RAH was a resounding success, but ended at 9pm sharp to allow the audience to get home before the night’s blackout.
5. The last say on The Last Night
The BBC decided to drop the performances of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia at the 1969 Last Night of the Proms, but the decision was quickly overturned following public pressure. We’re not entirely sure why this happened – if anyone knows, do get in touch!
6. Saving the Proms
On 7 August 1974, baritone Thomas Allen collapsed on stage during a performance of Carmina Burana.
Luckily, an audience member, student Patrick McCarthy, stepped onto the stage in a borrowed dinner jacket to sing the final four baritone numbers. Ironically, the only other member of the London Symphony Chorus who knew the role was a doctor, and so was busy attending to Thomas Allen.
7. Pomp and Circumstance
Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 was given a double encore at its Proms premiere in 1901. Since then the piece has featured in almost 150 Proms concerts.
8. Do the Conga
The 1999 Proms performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town ended with the audience, chorus and soloists breaking out into a conga line around the arena!
The shouts of ‘Heave ho!’ when the piano is moved to the front for a soloist, or the rapturous applause when a string player sounds an A on the piano for the orchestra to tune up may have began as jokes many years ago, but have today become inviolable traditions of the promming experience.
10. Hardcore Prommers
Each year, a number of dedicated prommers queue from around 11am in order to secure the best spots for the evening’s concerts. One prommer boasts of having held his particular position for 60 years.
Find out everything you need to know about this year’s Proms at joinencore.com/proms