BBC Proms: Tony Hall backs decision to play orchestral Rule, Britannia!

Could the BBC Proms drop Rule, Britannia?

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BBC boss Tony Hall has backed the Proms decision to play orchestral versions of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory on the traditional Last Night.

“I think they have come to the right conclusion which is actually to include it instrumentally,” Lord Hall said.

He also told BBC News’ Amol Rajan that he “suspects” the singing version will be back next year.

It had been reported the songs could be dropped over concerns of associations with colonialism and slavery.

The concert is due to take place on 12 September but without an audience and with limited performers at the Royal Albert Hall, due to concerns around Covid-19.

Lord Hall added: “We have come to the right conclusion which is a creative conclusion, an artistic conclusion… it is there in a medley of instrumentals playing around sea shanties and all of that and I suspect it will be back next year.”

He pointed to the difficulties in putting on the Proms without the usual audience.

“The point is they’ve come to the right conclusion which is it’s very, very hard in an Albert Hall that takes over 5000 people to have the atmosphere of the Last night of the Proms and to have things where the whole audience normally sing along – it’s quite hard creatively, artistically to make that work”

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In a statement on Monday evening, BBC Proms said it was announcing the concert’s programme following recent speculation.

It said there would be new orchestral versions of Land Of Hope And Glory, and Rule, Britannia!, as well as a new arrangement of Jerusalem.

“With much reduced musical forces and no live audience, the Proms will curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as Jerusalem and the National Anthem, and bring in new moments capturing the mood of this unique time, including You’ll Never Walk Alone, presenting a poignant and inclusive event for 2020,” the statement said.

Ivor Novello-winning composer Errollyn Wallen confirmed online on Monday evening that she is making the new arrangement of Proms favourite, Jerusalem,

“In it I remember the Commonwealth nations and am dedicating the work to the Windrush generation,” tweeted the Belize-born British musician.

‘A panic about race’

Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, told Times Radio he felt the BBC Proms panics when it came to issues of race.

“The real problem the corporation has is that it is always in a panic about race, and one of the reasons it is always in a panic is that it has no confidence,” he said.

“The principle reason it has no confidence… is that there is no ethnic diversity at the top of its decision-making tree.

“What you have is rooms full of white men panicking that someone is going to think they are racist.”

Broadcaster and choirmaster Gareth Malone has suggested the anthems were outdated, tweeting: “It’s time for Rule Britannia! to go.”

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