Dear John Drummond

What? No klaxons or hooters at the Last Night of the Proms? Think what you're doing before you mess with tradition
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The Independent Online
So, after 10 years at the helm of the world's greatest (or at least longest) music festival, and with only one last Last Night to go before the Proms officially score their centenary, you have finally lost patience with your audience and issued instructions that all balloons, pop guns, rattles, klaxons and other non-musical instruments are to be confiscated at the door before the traditional flag-waving singalong finale on Saturday night.

About time too, some might say. After all, the decade during which you have presided over the Proms has, perhaps not coincidentally, witnessed not only a healthy boost in box-office figures but a distressing decline in standards of Last Night decorum (not to mention an alarming paucity of wit and rhythm in the once-legendary arena-to-gallery exchanges).

Others might well be surprised that a man who, only four years back, fired the designated Last Night maestro, Mark Elder, for daring to suggest that the traditional rendition of Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory" might be felt inappropriate at the height of the Gulf War, has now turned against the tub-thumping jingoists who seemingly constitute his most loyal audience (after all, you have to attend, or at least buy tickets for, a minimum of five other Proms even to qualify to apply for those sought-after Last Night seats).

The more squeamish among us might wonder how exactly you expect the Albert Hall security staff to put your orders into practice, short of instituting full, and intrusively internal, body searches on all 5,000 ticket-holders (maybe Gilbert and George or Mona Hatoum might have some handy hints on hunting out hidden rubber goods). Still others, with longer memories, might observe that Sir Colin Davis, during his time as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, also tried to tone down the Last Night antics, only to retreat defeated from the field. And wasn't it composers who set the bad example in the first place, with all those balloon-popping, rattle-twirling, kazoo-blowing avant-garde experiments of the Sixties and Seventies?

But then again, the Last Night is different. At your press conference in May, you joked that Judith Bingham, one of the 14 composers especially commissioned to write for this centenary season, had intended to call her new piece "Fantasia on British Sea-Songs" - until you pointed out that Sir Henry Wood, founder of the whole shebang, had already nabbed the title, in 1905, and that his nautical sing-song had long been a staple of the Last Night festivities.

Embarrassing though Bingham's reputed ignorance may be, it is also indicative: serious music-lovers have long stopped Promming on the final Friday night and left Saturday's shenanigans to the Hooray Henry brigade, who have long since claimed the night as their own. Why not just leave them to it? If you want to alter anything, far from forcing them to sit through a serious first half in silence, as has lately become the rule, let alone inflicting an obviously unwelcome new piece of Harrison Birtwistle upon their unsuspecting ears, why not just hand the whole evening over to them, hooters and all?

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