What are the Proms?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Proms are a series of concerts held during the summer in England every year over the course of an eight week period. The bulk of The Proms takes place at the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington, London, where 70 concerts are performed over the course of The Proms, but events take place all over England in a wide variety of venues. While originally designed to showcase orchestral music, The Proms has since expanded, and events now include world music, jazz, rock, opera, and a variety of musical stylings.

The Proms take place all over England every summer.
The Proms take place all over England every summer.

This famous British concert series has been held since 1895. The original goal of The Proms was to introduce classical music to the general public, by making tickets cheap and the venue accessible. Conducted by Henry Joseph Wood, The Proms debuted to great fanfare, with a venue specifically designed to allow guests to promenade during the concerts, often socializing, eating, and drinking while the music was played. Henry Wood is often credited with shaping the modern proms, and a bronze bust of him sits in front of the conductor's podium during The Proms as a mark of respect for his accomplishments.

Officially, The Proms are known as the BBC Proms, or the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. The Proms are often broadcast on BBC stations, especially on the last night, when the Last Night concert features an assortment of patriotic music and classics of British orchestral music.

The Proms have endured two World Wars, shifting values in the musical community, and social upheaval in Britain. While the focus continues to be on bringing orchestral music to the British people, the expansion into other musical genres was met with great excitement in the musical community, and The Proms also offers events specifically designed for children and families to get young people interested in music. Young musicians are showcased at The Proms, as are debuts of new musical works, many of which are commissioned by the BBC specifically for The Proms.

While many of the concert-goers remain seated in the modern Proms, the tradition of promenading still endures in the form of “promming,” or standing directly in front of the stage. Promming tickets are usually available at low cost on the day of any event, although it is also possible to purchase season tickets. For concert-goers, a Grand Slam, which involves attending every single Proms concert in the season, is sometimes a lifelong goal.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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