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The Proms: The<i> IoS </i>offers its A-to-Z guide to the 115th season

It's that time again. Prom season is upon us. With 100 concerts in 58 days, starting on Friday, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to tuning in. Read on...


A star-studded clutch of composers' anniversaries pepper this year's Proms. From Sir Edward Elgar and Henry Purcell to George Frideric Handel and Gustav Holst, expect more nostalgia than usual.


Thank goodness for Auntie. The Beeb rescued the loss-making Proms back in 1927 and but for a short break during the Second World War has been synonymous with the annual summer musicathon ever since.


The blue-rinse Prom brigade does not take happily to change, so the organisers meddle with the schedule at their peril. Oh, the fuss over Michael Ball's appearance two years ago. And who could forget the angst when the rock band Soft Machine was allowed in back in 1970?

Darwin, Charles

Just because we've already had his 200th birthday celebrations doesn't mean we've heard the last of the naturalist this year. Creation Day on 18 July will feature, aptly, a performance of Haydn's The Creation, while David Attenborough will lead the family-focused musical event Evolution! on 1 and 2 August.

Eight point eight million £

All this musical pomp and circumstance doesn't come cheap. Great fun they might be but we, the taxpayers, will be saddled with a whopping bill.


You might go just to the music but it's hard to ignore the showmanship of the conductors. Take the Venezuelan virtuoso Gustavo Dudamel, whose dramatic style all but levitates him off the podium.

Greenwood, Jonny

The Radiohead guitarist is the BBC's composer-in-residence. His Popcorn Superhet Receiver has its debut at the Proms this year.

Hodge, Margaret

The former culture minister who last year committed the cardinal sin of stating the obvious: calling the Proms too white and pointing out they did not offer a "shared sense of common cultural identity". She was widely chastised for her comments.


Maybe this year's Prom-goers have Hodge to thank for "Indian Voices Day", aka Bollywood Day, on 16 August, which will celebrate Indian music – another Prom first. And about time too, some might add.

Jenkins, Katherine

The Welsh opera singer will star in this year's Prom in Hyde Park on 12 September, as will, er, Barry Manilow. If he's good enough for the Americans on Independence Day...

Kids' events

Initiatives such as the Free Family Prom, a matinee concert with the BBC Philharmonic, which is performing an introduction to the themes of this year's season, and discounted tickets for under-16s aim to attract a younger crowd.

Last Night of the Proms

The season's finale is awash with British patriotic music, traditionally culminating in a weepy sing-along to "Auld Lang Syne" where haughty audience members wave little Union flags (a spectacle single-handedly responsible for the Proms' pompous image).

Maestro Cam

The BBC's new red button feature will offer a camera focused solely on the conductor throughout certain performances, accompanied by expert commentaries on what all that wild arm-waving means.

Newman, Robert

Father of the Proms, he devised them in 1895 as concerts to make classical music more accessible to the masses: the tickets were cheaper than normal and people could eat, drink and even light up. What would he have made of the smoking ban?

One hundred

The record number of concerts planned for the 2009 season.


The nickname for serial Proms fanatics, some of whom attempt the "grand slam" of attending every concert. Fearsomely patriotic, they embody a vision of Britain circa 1950.

Queen's Hall

The Proms' first home, but after it was bombed in 1941 the concerts moved to their present home, Royal Albert Hall.

Royal composer

In his capacity as Master of the Queen's Music, Peter Maxwell Davies will celebrate his 75th birthday with the premiere of his Violin Concerto No 2, Fiddler on the Shore.

Stravinsky, Igor

It's 100 years since the great composer met the choreographer Sergei Diaghilev, commemorated here with productions of all his ballets.


The Proms are nothing if not tradition-rich. Perhaps the most painful is the chorus from the audience when the piano is hoisted on stage. "Heave!" shout the arena Prommers; "Ho!" echo the gallery Prommers. "Enough!" scream the viewers at home.

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

The frankly surprising musical hit of recent times, the "plucking brilliant" musicians will display their wit and versatility on 18 August. Other "uke" pickers are invited to come and play along to Beethoven and the Sex Pistols.

Villa-Lobos, Heitor

You might think Bach and Brazilian folk music have little in common besides the letter B, but you'd be wrong. Villa-Lobos, the Brazilian composer, fused the two in his Bachianas Brasileiras, one of which is played this year to mark 40 years since he died.

West-Eastern Divan

The world-class youth collective, described by its co-founder and conductor Daniel Barenboim as "an orchestra against ignorance", includes players of Israeli and Palestinian descent. They return to the Proms this year on their 10th anniversary.

Xenakis, Iannis

The late Greek composer's Nomos Gamma gets a rare outing this season at the Proms on 2 September. It is notoriously difficult to play and requires the performers to spread out in an expanding circle like flower petals.

Young Composers

It isn't all homages to dead composers, you know: young composers get an outing, too: such as trumpeter Tom Arthurs' composition And Distant Shore, which has its premiere. Then there's the annual hunt to find the next generation of Elgars: the winners get to perform their works.


No modern Proms season would be complete without some truly off-the-wall pieces. Prepare yourself for Sir Malcolm Arnold's A Grand, Grand Overture, which features three vacuum cleaners, four rifles and one floor polisher. No wonder they're saving it for the last night.