With a little help from the Proms, Beatles join the classical repertoire
This year songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney will be sung at the Proms for the first time. And yesterday the Proms director, Nicholas Kenyon, who is also head of BBC Radio 3, said he had made the decision to include Lennon and McCartney at classical music's premier international festival in an attempt to broaden the classical repertory.
But in a surprising put-down of Lord Lloyd-Webber, Mr Kenyon said he believed the most commercially successful composer in the world still had "a little way to go" before entering the repertory. However, the late Frank Zappa, a former wild man of rock, will have music featured at this year's Proms.
Lord Lloyd-Webber, who has long considered himself a composer of opera, reacted diplomatically to Mr Kenyon's remarks last night.
He said: "I'm a great supporter of the Proms since having first visited the Proms when I was three years old, when taken by my father, who was the director of the Royal College of Music across the road. And I would be thrilled if one day my music would be performed there."
Mr Kenyon said of this year's programme: "Lennon and McCartney's songs are now the classics of our day because they have survived absolutely continuously as music that people listen to, respond to and love, and have done for over 30 years.
"In their way they have established themselves as as significant as any other composer of their era. They speak to people just as much as the classical composers of the Sixties, Berio and Boulez."
He added: "Lennon and McCartney can be compared with Gershwin. I wouldn't be surprised if people questioned my judgement but we are robust about this. It is music that a Proms audience will respond to. I want to show that the repertory can broaden itself and refresh itself."
Beatles songs including "Penny Lane", "Eleanor Rigby", "I'll Follow the Sun" and "Honey Pie" will be sung by the King's Singers at a Prom in July.
And in a further widening of the repertory, a composition by Zappa will be played.
Excerpts from Zappa's "The Yellow Shark" will also be heard at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 20 July.
Also at the lighter end of the spectrum there is a celebration concert for John Dankworth and Cleo Laine.
However, the classical music establishment's embrace is not being offered to all Britain's world-famous popular composers. Mr Kenyon said that Lord Lloyd Webber did not come under the classical umbrella, and he could not foresee his music being played at the Proms.
"I think Lloyd Webber's got a little way to go," said Mr Kenyon, "before he establishes himself as someone whose music has permanently entered the repertory."
Available this year is a special CD with music choices from celebrities including the tennis star Tim Henman and the actor Bob Hoskins.
Mr Kenyon said: "The CD is intended to encourage those less familiar with classical music to give the Proms a try." The CD is presented by the sports presenter, Desmond Lynam. A special focus this year will be on the folk-inspired music of classical composers, including works by Chopin, Bartok and Brahms. There will also be works by Benjamin Britten.
The series of daily concerts will run from Friday 18 July to Saturday 13 September. For the first time there will be afternoon repeats of many of the proms on Radio 3. Classical music, says Mr Kenyon, is music "that reflects the ever broader range that classical performers play."
The late Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story, defined it as the only music where the composer alone determines the nature of every note that is played.
Leading article, page 17
Masterpiece or Muzak: how do they score?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
He ceases to be classical each time his private jet lands at Heathrow. His work counts as classical in America and Ireland, but not in Britain. His music is being played at this year's Irish Proms. His Requiem won him an American award as best classical contemporary musician. He classes his musicals as operas.
By Leonard Bernstein's definition, the composer of the 1973 hit Tubular Bells is up there with Brahms and Beethoven. From glockenspiel to the "two slightly distorted guitars" announced on the album, Oldfield also played all the instruments himself.
The composer of the score for the film The Piano is hovering on the edges of classical recognition. However, he has one claim to eligibility that neither Kenyon nor Bernstein noted in their definitions. His compositions deal with death, a defining aspect of classical music, and almost never of pop music.
Porgy and Bess has been performed at Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House. But an even better tribute to his classical status came from Ravel when Gershwin asked him for music lessons in Paris. "How much do you earn?" asked Ravel. Gershwin told him. "I should be taking lessons from you," Ravel replied.
She complained officially to chart compilers that her recording of Kurt Weill cabaret songs was excluded from the classical charts. A classical crossover chart has now been established to accommodate her and similar anomalies. But participation in the 1968 Rolling Stones Rock'n'Roll Circus rules her out of full classical status.
THE SPICE GIRLS
Mr Kenyon might expect promenaders to boogie to Frank Zappa, but Mel B and chums leave him cold. ``The Spice Girls have a mountain to climb before they show they have the staying power,'' he says. Their musical response is likely to be either a broadening of their repertoire or a head butt for the Proms director.
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