The Proms are taking a walk on the wild side of music

Goldie, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood and Bollywood included in this year's line-up at the Albert Hall

There is Bollywood music and dancing, a set by the drum 'n' bass legend Goldie, a composition by Jonny Greenwood from the indie rock band Radiohead and classic songs from MGM films.

This is not a description of the latest teen summer festival but the line-up of this year's Proms – the annual celebration of classical and orchestral music – announced yesterday by the event's director, Roger Wright.

Outlining the programme kicking off in July, which includes an orchestra with the sounds of vacuum cleaners and three rifles, Wright fended off accusations of "dumbing down" that may be angled at him in his second year as director.

"There are lots of popular classical music events. Bollywood music is being done for the first time and it will play its part in a long celebration of Indian voices, but this is one part of a very broad programme," he said.

Some have argued against the inclusion of popular music in the Proms in recent times. One Prom led by the musical theatre star, Michael Ball, in 2007, and another dedicated to the television series, Doctor Who, last year, led critics to suggest that the 115-year-old musical institution was losing its way in an effort to attract more ticket sales.

But Wright, who is also the controller of BBC Radio 3, said the Proms had always had a wide-ranging brief which involved popular acts and world sounds.

He said as far back as 1970, the English rock band Soft Machine, named after the William Burroughs book of the same name, who helped to pioneer progressive rock, sung at the Proms.

This year's populist musical acts would be a minority among the throng of classical music and orchestral sounds emanating from the Royal Albert Hall, he added. The classical backbone of the eight-week extravaganza will include the complete cycles of piano music by Tchaikovsky, ballet scores by Stravinsky, Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the first proms dedicated to the contemporary composers Philip Glass and Michael Nyman.

The day-long Indian prom on 16 August will explore the numerous vocal styles coming out of the country and culminate in a Bollywood spectacular including a dance troupe and singing by the "playback" singer, Shaan.

On 1 August, there will be a celebration led by the John Wilson Orchestra that will mark 75 years of MGM musicals with songs from film classics including The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis and Singin' In the Rain.

A composition called Popcorn Superhet Receiver, which Radiohead's Greenwood wrote while he was composer in residence with the BBC concert orchestra, will be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 14 August.

Goldie, the drum 'n' bass pioneer, has written a short orchestral work for Evolution! a Charles Darwin-inspired musical piece for children, as part of the opening weekend highlights, which have as their theme the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

Meanwhile, a highlight of the last night will be an eccentric orchestral performance called A Grand Grand Overture written by Malcolm Arnold and featuring the sounds of vaccuum cleaners, a floor polisher and three rifles.

Last year's Proms saw attendance figures increase by 4 per cent compared with 2007. Wright hoped that the financial crisis would not keep people away. All the evidence on spending habits, he said, suggested otherwise.

"It's interesting talking to my colleagues who say tickets seem to be holding up. There is some evidence that people are not spending on either side of an event but at the same time, people still want to go out and do what they think is the best value for money in this time of financial gloom. We are quietly confident that we will give the best value for money," he said.

There are 100 concerts this year – 12 more than in 2008. The Proms will be performed from 17 July to 12 September and concerts during the season will be broadcast on Radio 3, BBC Four and BBC Two.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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