With a little bravery Marin Alsop could conduct this Last Night of the Proms into a new era

 

Share
Related Topics

Tonight is the Last Night of the Proms. And, as we all know by now, Marin Alsop will become the first woman to conduct at the most famous night of classical music in the calendar. That already puts her in the history books. But I’d like to see her go into the history books, or at least into tomorrow’s papers, for a further reason.

The Last Night isn't different only because of Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and flag-waving. It is unusual because of the tradition hat the conductor actually makes a short speech. A conductor talking to the audience - that's a rarity all right. A conductor saying something newsworthy to the audience would be even more of a rarity. But this is the night that it could and should happen.

In the past these Last Night addresses have usually consisted of bonhomie, jokes and the odd platitude. That's a waste. The Last Night isn't only broadcast on TV, it is now also relayed to vast audiences in Hyde Park and other venues across the United Kingdom. Never again will Ms Alsop have such an audience. I don't mean that she should broadcast her views on Syria, the Coalition government or HS2. That's not what we want from a conductor.

But she should make some trenchant statements about her art form and about the Last Night of the Proms. On the latter I would like her to declare there is nothing wrong with the patriotism that the Last Night embodies. While it so often makes the arts world a little uncomfortable - only this week former Proms director Sir Nicholas Kenyon said the Last Night used to be "dangerously English" - culture and patriotism need not be mutually exclusive.

She should, of course, highlight the plight of gay artists in Russia. Then she could turn to the state of classical music and assert that it has to do more to widen the demographic of its audience. She could welcome the recent experiment in a week of concerts in Bristol, where there were screens and light shows. She should call on government to increase urgently both peripatetic music teaching in schools and school visits to concerts. She should challenge television, not least her host for the evening the BBC, to show more classical music in those 10 months when the Proms are not on.

And on this night of being the first woman at the helm, she should look abroad and name and shame those world famous orchestras in Germany and Austria which have almost no women in their ranks. Then, in a stinging conclusion she should give her view, with no expletives deleted, of fellow conductor Vasily Petrenko of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, who has opined that female conductors distract male musicians.

The music tonight will undoubtedly be memorable. But the speech could be unforgettable.

* Recently on this page I argued that town centres should have more statues (any statues!) of cultural figures. Readers have come up with a number of responses. Some express surprise that there is no statue of Dickens in London (though there is one in Portsmouth...and Philadelphia!).

Josephine Eaton from Derby wants a statue of Nottingham's Alan Sillitoe, author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, in his home city. Gavin Brown from Linlithgow points out that Scotland can teach England something. In Edinburgh's Princes Street there is the Scott Monument, probably the largest monument in the world to an author and the centrepiece of the edifice at ground level is a statue of Sir Walter Scott.  Scott also dominates George Square in Glasgow. 

There is also a statue of Scott in Selkirk where he worked as Sheriff Clerk. There are statues to Robert Burns in various places, most notably Dumfries where he died.  In Edinburgh, too, you will find statues in Princes Street gardens of Robert Louis Stevenson and the less well-known Allan Ramsay. 

On the Royal Mile there is a statue of David Hume. Bob and Rose Sandham from Hull fly the flag for England, or at least for Hull, saying that the city boasts statues of two remarkable poets: Andrew Marvell in the old town and Philip Larkin on the railway station concourse. The north shows the way.

* It's not just statues that can commemorate great cultural figures. Each year at this time I watch the U.S. Open Tennis on TV and love it when they show a match from the Louis Armstrong court. A tennis court at a grand slam arena named after one of the country's cultural icons! It makes Wimbledon's number one court sound a bit prosaic. Centre Court is steeped in tradition and it's a name that shouldn't be altered. But number one could be a little more arty. And now it's over to Murray versus Nadal on Elton John... or Virginia Woolf... or Laurence Olivier. Why not?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the feeble-mindedness of ‘predict and provide’ in air travel

John Rentoul
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend – because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map