Rule Britannia to be performed with lyrics at Last Night of the Proms, BBC announces

Announcement comes after uproar caused by speculation that lyrics were being dropped over perceived links to slavery and colonialism

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 02 September 2020 15:49
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The traditional anthems “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land Of Hope and Glory” will be sung by a group of vocalists for The Last Night of the Proms, the BBC has said.

Controversy erupted after the earlier announcement that the lyrics would not be performed due to this year’s lack of a live audience, who sing along at the Royal Albert Hall.

It was believed by some that the real reason the BBC had chosen to drop the lyrics was due to concerns over the songs’ perceived links to colonialism and slavery.

Boris Johnson reacted to the decision by calling for an end to “self-recrimination and wetness” over British history.

“I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness,” he said.

A spokesperson for the BBC Proms has now said: “The pandemic means a different Proms this year and one of the consequences, under Covid-19 restrictions, is we are not able to bring together massed voices.

“For that reason we took the artistic decision not to sing ‘Rule, Britannia!’ and ‘Land Of Hope and Glory’ in the Hall.

“We have been looking hard at what else might be possible and we have a solution.”

The spokesperson explained that both pieces will now include a select group of BBC singers, who will perform at the Royal Albert Hall. Audiences are encouraged to sing along at home, “as we have always made clear”.

“While it can’t be a full choir, and we are unable to have audiences in the hall, we are doing everything possible to make it special and want a Last Night truly to remember,” the spokesperson continued.

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“We hope everyone will welcome this solution. We think the night itself will be a very special moment for the country – and one that is much needed after a difficult period for everyone. It will not be a usual Last Night, but it will be a night not just to look forward to, but to remember.”

The Last Night of the Proms takes place on Saturday 12 September.

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