TIP: The BBC Proms

TIP: The BBC Proms – When a Weekend is Not Enough

BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall | Photo by Unknown, CC0 Public Domain

If you enjoy classical music and have the opportunity to take some time off this summer, why not plan a trip to the United Kingdom and London during July, August or the early part of September? The BBC Proms is back again this year. 

This year, the Proms runs from 13 July to 8 September and includes concerts, talks, workshops and events almost every day. During eight weeks every summer, the Royal Albert Hall and a few other venues are turned into a giant festival for seasoned classical music fans, as well as those exploring the genre for the first time. Orchestras and choirs from all over the world are taking part, and many come back year after year. To ensure you can fit everything in, you really need to spend more than a weekend of  three days in London, especially if you also want to have time for some general sightseeing and shopping. Once you’ve had your fill of London from the street level, remember to also enjoy the capital from above, i.e., from one of the many  rooftop bars and restaurants

About the BBC Proms 

The aim of the Proms, organised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the British public service broadcaster, is to bring ‘the best in classical music to the widest possible audience’, which remains true to founder-conductor Henry Wood's original vision in 1895. If you can plan ahead and buy your seat tickets in advance, make sure you purchase your tickets directly from the Royal Albert Hall website or in person at the venue. 

Even though many of the most popular Proms will sell out quickly, there will still be many with late availability. For every Prom, you can get a hold of tickets on the day, including what’s called Promming tickets (standing tickets at £6 a piece). For these tickets, you simply queue in the morning to get your queue number and then you return to the venue ahead of the performance. For some of the more popular Proms, ‘morning’ may well include overnight in a sleeping bag, or you’ll not be guaranteed entry.   

Celebrating 100 years since Leonard Bernstein’s birth

On August 25, on what would have been Bernstein’s 100th birthday, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Marin Alsop (a former student of Bernstein) will make their Prom debut with On the Town. 

In Prom 31 on August 6, the Minnesota Orchestra & Osmo Vänskä perform a concert of 20th-century American classics, including Bernstein’s exhilarating Candide overture and Ives’s lyrical Second Symphony. Other Bernstein-related performances include, for example, John Wilson conducting West Side Story (Prom 38, August 11) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Prom 69) playing on September 3, both paying tribute to Bernstein with their performances. 

Last Night of the Proms 

The Last Night of the Proms, sometimes referred to as the ‘greatest annual party in classical music’, is when the whole of Royal Albert Hall really comes to life. Flags are hanging from the balconies, the Prommers in the arena are waving their flags, and everyone is having a great time. Tickets to this evening are so sought-after that the organisers are holding ballots to issue some of the tickets. Applications for the Open Ballot this year closes on 28 June and are only accepted by post. You can also enter the Fave-Concert Ballot if you have bought tickets to at least five other Proms. Your best option might be to buy a season Promming ticket or try to get invited to one of the many private boxes hosting corporate parties on the night.