Pop goes Proms' last night tradition

'By all means sing when required, sway about, dress up if you must, but leave those balloons, klaxons and pop-guns at home. The music and speech need to be heard' - Sir John Drummond (left) warns promenaders
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The Independent Online
A Last night of the Proms tradition will be ended this Saturday when concert-goers will find that ballooons, pop-guns and klaxons are banned from the arena.

In seeking to ensure that the party atmosphere does not intrude on the music, Sir John Drummond, the retiring director of the proms, is determined to go out with a bang, and is equally determined to see that nobody else does.

Explaining his distaste for balloons popping, Sir John writes in the programme: "It would be uncharacteristic of me to go without a final grumble, so here it is. This year, on the Last Night, could we listen to the music without extraneous noises? By all means sing when required, sway about, dress up if you must, but leave those balloons, klaxons and pop-guns at home. The music and the speech need to be heard."

In dirigiste vein, he even expresses distaste for the extravagant dress that last nighters wear, saying that those attending can dress up "if you must."

Sir John has also commissioned a new piece of music to be played before Elgar's Land Of Hope And Glory after the interval, the first time in more than 20 years that this has happened. It is by the modernist composer, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, is 15 minutes long, and is entitled, perhaps appropriately, Panic.

Patrick Deuchar, the chief executive of the Royal Albert Hall, confirmed yesterday that on the instructions of the BBC, people will not be allowed into the proms with balloons or pop-guns.

He said: "The BBC have come to the conclusion that they are a distraction and they spoil the public enjoyment of the occasion. So balloons will not be in the arena, they will be removed."

Sir Harrison Birtwistle said last night: "My piece is called Panic because it is about Pan, the Greek god. It is a jazz piece, which will feature saxophone and drums. I suppose it isn't in the tradition of the last night of the proms, but then I wouldn't really know as I have never been to one. I'm not too concerned what people in the audience do as long as they listen."

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