Grime and hip-hop mash with the Proms

Urban meets classical at the Royal Albert Hall tonight. Presenter Clemency Burton-Hill explains

Last year, at a radio industry awards ceremony, I got to share a stage with a long-time hero of mine, Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson. Obsessed with classical music since childhood, I've always had an omnivorous appetite for all sorts of music. As a teenaged classical violinist just as addicted to hip-hop, soul, jazz and dance music as I was to Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven, I saved up for years to buy a pair of Technics 1210s, on which I then spun everything from underground garage to 1980s hip-hop and old Miami funk, foraged in basement Soho record shops. I also had a classical vinyl collection that never quite fit in my bedroom, and still continues to grow.

Some of my colleagues may disagree, but to me, music is music. From one genre to the next – at least in the West – it is built of identical DNA and the same alphabet, if you like: the same sonorous vibrations that we measure in the same mathematical units. It always involves the same notes, the same beats, the same rhythms; and it's a continual wonder to me that so much can be done with so little and in so many staggeringly different ways. How anyone responds to those different ways is as personal – and as valid – as how we fall in love. Which is why I get so frustrated by the silos that are erected around musical genres: especially classical, where often the worst culprits of this depressing isolationism come from within the industry itself. To me, the most unforgivable trait in any artist is a lack of curiosity and imagination. A classical artist – or any musician for that matter – with no interest in other art forms is unlikely to be one whose music is worth listening to, no matter how technically superb they may be.

Up on that stage, as Trevor and I were co-presenting a BBC radio award, I told him I'd always been a devotee of his hip-hop show on Radio 1. For that, he announced to the audience, he'd be willing to finally give classical music a go. Come on over, I joked, our doors at Radio 3 are always open.

I'm overjoyed, therefore, that tonight Radio 3 will join forces with Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra at the first ever Urban Classic Prom, which will also be broadcast on BBC3 (not that I can claim a scintilla of credit for the event, which has involved months of planning from many different quarters). Singers such as Laura Mvula and N-Dubz star Fazer will join the BBC Symphony Orchestra on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in a symphonic remix of tunes from the panoply of British urban music, from grime to soul to R'n'B, as well as high-octane orchestral works by Mosolov and Henze.

The classically-educated conductor and former jazz trumpeter Jules Buckley, who has overseen most of the arrangements, hopes it will bring together two different audiences and musical worlds by reinterpreting and reimagining their art on both sides. “All music, so long as it is of a certain quality, has a right to be heard on the same stage,” he insists, “and I've always been on a bit of a crusade to break down the elitist approach to classical music and the ignorance on the other side that it's expensive and for posh people. You can go to a Prom for a fiver, to the Barbican, the South Bank Centre for a tenner. If you want to see Muse at Wembley, you'd better be willing to part with 150 quid! I hope our audience on Saturday is a mix of everyone. The BBC Symphony Orchestra players have been loving it because it's exciting to take on different grooves from what they're used to. Hopefully we can show that off, have fun, really get the audience to enjoy themselves.”

The Urban Classic knees-up will no doubt have some Proms regulars running for the hills and others fulminating. One tabloid columnist was outraged at what he saw as this scandalous “dumbing down” at the Proms – which this year presents at least seven major works of the cerebral Polish avant-gardist Witold Lutosławski along with 18 classical world premieres (of which 14 are BBC commissions), to say nothing of an entire Ring Cycle, and Verdi and Britten centenary-markers.

I was lucky enough to present the first-ever Gospel Prom earlier in the season, and it was deeply moving – but in a grimly “not-before-time” sort of way – to see the Royal Albert Hall stage, and its 6,000-capacity auditorium, filled with people who were not from one predictable demographic. So it should be again on Saturday, when the Proms welcomes artists like grime star Fazer – who has sold a million albums, racked up over one hundred million hits on YouTube and won four Mobos; all accolades that his classical counterparts might legitimately dream of. And Laura Mvula – who, contrary to said tabloid columnist's implication that for “rubbish” artists like these to be invited to the Proms was an insult to “real” musicians, studied composition at the acclaimed Birmingham Conservatoire before embarking on her solo career.

Clemency Burton-Hill presents the Urban Classic Prom at 8pm today on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and on BBC Three at 9pm

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment