Never done the Proms before? You're missing out. This eight-week festival of classical music — and plenty more besides — is in London from 19 July-14 September. Here's what you need to know.
So what are the Proms?
The first Prom was in 1895, established by the conductor Henry Wood who wanted "to bring the best in classical music to the widest possible audience", (no sniffiness from the outset, then). Over the decades, it's burgeoned into an eight-week jamboree of concerts, workshops, talks and family events. This year, there are over 75 shows.
Where do the Proms take place?
The flagship venue is South Kensington's Royal Albert Hall — a dazzling bowl of Victorian splendour, which holds an audience of over 5.5k. Satellite venues include Cadogan Hall, Imperial College and Battersea Arts Centre. Nearly all of the concerts are broadcast live on Radio 3, and many are shown on TV/BBC iPlayer too.
What are the highlights of the 2019 Proms?
The 50th anniversary of the moon landings is a major theme (see Holst's Planets on 21 July; Public Service Broadcasting's performance of their album The Race for Space on 25 July; and a sci-fi prom on 7 August — among others).
Many other proms are set around 'Earth & the Environment'. Timeless pieces include The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky (22 July); Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (1 August); and An Alpine Symphony by R. Strauss (11 August). These are joined by contemporary pieces such as John Luther Adams's In the Name of the Earth — an epic landscape-inspired choral work featuring over 600 singers (8 September).
And what are Londonist's personal pick of the Proms?
- Bohemian Rhapsody (20 July)
- Angélique Kidjo (30 July)
- Swan Lake (5 August)
- Mozart Requiem (7 August)
- The Warner Brothers Story (9 August)
- Yuja Wang plays Rachmaninov (5 September)
- Jonny Greenwood (10 September)
- Beethoven Night (13 September)
How do I get tickets for the Proms?
Tickets for all performances are on sale now via the Proms website. If you want to be a proper 'prommer', read onto the next line.
What are the cheapest tickets at the Proms?
That'd be the 'promming' tickets. 1,350 are available for every single Proms performance, and cost just £6 each. The catch is that you'll need to queue up on the night, and buy them from the box office (they now take contactless as well as cash).
The more popular the performance, the earlier you should show up. It's not an exact science, but the Albert Hall reckons you can get out of work on time and head straight over, you should be OK. (We've had personal disappointments of not quite making it in. It's a sad bus ride home.)
A limited number of promming tickets go on sale between 9am and noon on the day of each performance.
What exactly is promming anyway?
It's short for promenade, and in this case means you don't get a seat. You choose whether to head up into the gallery (spectacular views, and you can indeed stroll around a bit), or into the arena (tends to be more cramped, but you can see the performers up close). You can take a picnic in with you but any booze may be confiscated. Boo.
Are the Proms just for adults?
Absolutely not. Well behaved children over the age of five are welcome, and there's a prom aimed squarely at kids, CBeebies: a Musical Trip to the Moon (21 and 22 July) — which under fives can attend. Children aged 5-18 also get half-priced tickets to all shows.
Check out the family events section for a range of other Proms things kids will love.
Do I need to dress up posh?
Top hats and tailcoats please. Only joking. Wear what you like, within reason. We've even seen some prommers stalk about barefoot in the gallery (arguably a bit pretentious, but maybe it helps them contemplate Shostakovich or something).
When is the last night of the Proms?
This year's sunlit-uplands-steeped-flag-waving finale is on 14 September. It's wildly popular, and ticketing for it is different (and more complicated) than other Proms. Check out the details here.
If you don't get in, consider going to Proms in the Park earlier in the day. The pop-meets-classical blowout in Hyde Park features performances from the 60-piece BBC Concert Orchestra, along with Barry Manilow, the Lighthouse Family, Gabrielle and Chrissie Hynde.
If you DO get into the Albert Hall event, know that contrary to popular belief, you CAN take an EU flag into the venue with you. Just saying.