Tradition yields to compassion at Last Night

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The Independent Online

British and US national anthems were played back to back as tradition gave way to compassion at the Last Night of the Proms yesterday in the wake of terrorist outrages in New York and Washington.

The usual buoyant celebration was replaced by more sombre contemplation after BBC Proms organisers revised the programme to remove the jovial patriotism.

The change of emphasis did not stop Prom-goers from bringing along Union Jacks, but they were sparse and joined by Stars and Stripes flags, which were being sold outside the Royal Albert Hall. Indeed the two flags were hanging from the tiered balconies which circle the domed concert venue.

Promenaders in vests and jeans rubbed shoulders with those dressed in dinner jackets and gowns as they stood to attention for both God Save the Queen and The Star Spangled Banner, which was a late addition to the performance.

The usual polite silence between performances was shattered by one audience member who shouted "God Save The Queen, Long Live America", gaining a ripple of applause.

Banished from the concert tonight were the old Last Night favourites such as Rule, Britannia! and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance. In their places were the reflective and emotional Barber's Adagio for Strings and the choral finale from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Proms director Nicholas Kenyon told the audience: "You will be aware of the programme changes which we felt it necessary to make, and it is right and proper debates should continue about this. I just want to ask for one simple thing and that is that you enter into the spirit in which it has been conceived."

The Last Night was being conducted by an American for the first time, with BBC symphony orchestra chief conductor Leonard Slatkin in charge of proceedings. He said: "The events of this last week have left us in a very different world than the one we had on Monday. I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were on 11 September."

Thousands of fans also enjoyed the concert in live links to events around the country, in Gateshead, Cornwall, Liverpool and London's Hyde Park. At each there was a small smattering of flags. The event was also beamed to TV audiences in 40 countries and on 300 American radio stations as a result of this week's tragedy.

A minute's silence for the dead was observed prior to Barber's Adagio For Strings, which Slatkin said was played in the US as a "memorial" in the same way that Elgar's Nimrod was used here. Some members of the audience sobbed during its performance, while others quietly dabbed away a tear.

However, the flag-waving began at the close of the show for the traditional performance of Jerusalem, which was this year being played for the 50th time.

Many events have been cancelled or curtailed in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attack. The American superstar Madonna and the British singer Sting both announced this week that they were cancelling concerts.

And the scale of London Fashion Week, which starts tomorrow, has been drastically reduced after six top designers, including Paul Smith, Katharine Hamnett and Nicole Farhi, decided to cancel their shows. Art exhibitions in London were also affected. Tate Modern's Surrealism: Desire Unbound may be forced to go ahead without 21 key pieces. Also opening this week, Rembrandt's Women at the Royal Academy may be missing several drawings which were to have been lent by the US.

The film industry reacted by withdrawing Swordfish, a movie about terrorism starring John Travolta, from cinemas worldwide, and pulling Pearl Harbor from those in the UK. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered trailers for his latest film, Collateral Damage, to be destroyed; its release, scheduled for next month, has been cancelled. In Florida, Walt Disney World was shut, as were California's Disneyland and Universal Studios. The Emmy TV awards, which were to be held in Los Angeles, were postponed.

Liverpool's European Cup match on Tuesday and Wednesday's Worthington Cup games went ahead, but midweek Champions League and Uefa Cup games were postponed. Golf's Ryder Cup, due to be held at the Belfry in England next month, may be cancelled because of fears that it might be targeted by terrorists.

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