Last Night anthems dropped from concert schedule

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The rousing nationalistic tunes that traditionally close the Last Night of the Proms have been dropped as a mark of respect to those who died in the United States.

Leonard Slatkin, who was to have been the first American to conduct "Land of Hope and Glory" and "Rule Britannia", will instead preside over a more sombre programme at tomorrow night's concert. "I don't know how I will get through it but I will," he said yesterday.

Mr Slatkin, who conducted orchestras in New York and Washington before becoming chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra last year, has several friends among the dead. He had hoped that his wife, Linda, and seven-year-old son, Daniel, would be with him tomorrow but it is unlikely they will be able to get a flight to Britain from their home in Washington DC. Travel problems have also jeopardised a debut Proms appearance by the American mezzo-soprano soloist Frederica von Stade, who is in San Francisco.

With audiences due to tune in from around the world, Mr Slatkin said he knew immediately that the performance should go ahead to defy the terrorists. But a different tone will be set with spirituals from Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings – and the Choral Finale from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Mr Slatkin said there was no way he could conduct anything festive and he believed the audience would understand. "We will end with 'Jerusalem' because not to do any of the traditions would not have been right," he said. "But as much as I had looked forward to observing the traditions of this most special of occasions, circumstances have dictated otherwise ... Unity through music is now the message and we can use our sounds to help underscore the long healing process that must take place. I am honoured to be doing the Last Night. Maybe more than ever."

A minute's silence will be observed during the second half of the concert when the Royal Albert Hall links with concerts taking place simultaneously in Hyde Park, Gateshead, Cornwall and Liverpool.

Although flags will not be banned, the BBC believes members of the audience will accept the more reflective tone. "We're not going to actively ban flags, but it's clearly inappropriate," a spokeswoman said.

Nicholas Kenyon, the director of the BBC Proms, said: "We feel it is vital to respond to people's mood at this sombre and difficult time, and at the same time to show that music can affirm our shared humanity."

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