Never done the Proms before? You're missing out. This eight-week festival of live classical music — and plenty more besides — is in London from 14 July-9 September 2023. Here's what you need to know.
What are these Proms you speak of?
The first ever 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 84 shows, with over 3,000 musicians taking part, in London and beyond.
Where do the 2023 Proms take place?
The majority of Proms concerts take place at the flagship venue, South Kensington's Royal Albert Hall (RAH). This dazzling bowl of Victorian splendour, holds an audience of over 5.5k. To paraphrase the Beatles, now you know how many folks it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
In a bid to be less London centric this year, there's a weekend-long prom at the Sage Gateshead (21-23 July), plus performances at Guildhall Londonderry, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Dewsbury Town Hall, Hall for Cornwall in Truro, Perth Concert Hall and the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth.
What are the highlights of the 2023 Proms?
That very much depends what you're into. The Proms has evolved wonderfully over time to cater to an increasingly diverse audience, and offers everything here from Berlioz to Bollywood. Here are some shows that've particularly got us drooling:
- Prom 2: Northern Soul - Crack open the talc (actually don't, the RAH will be furious) for this orchestral interpretation of Northern Soul classics, presented by 6Music's Stuart Maconie. No confirmation on the songs yet, but if Do It by Pat Powdrill is in the mix we'll be jumping about all over the place. 15 July 🕺🏽
- Prom 14: Elgar's Enigma Variations - A stirring standard of the classical music genre, you can't fail to be moved by Elgar's masterpiece, especially the Nimrod section. This show also features the European premiere of Noriko Koide's Swaddling Silk and Gossamer Rain. 25 July ☁️
- Prom 15: Late Night: Moon and Stars - A sign of how the Proms has moved with the times; this special after hours show invites TikTok star Anna Lapwood to tickle the ivories of the RAH's 9,999-pipe organ, with music from the likes of Philip Glass, Claude Debussy and Kristina Arakelyan. 25 July 📱
- Prom 18: Lata Mangeshkar: Bollywood Legend - The Nightingale of India', the 'Queen of Melody' — Bollywood star Lata Mangeshkar had many nicknames, all of them complimentary. Palak Muchhal, Palash Muchhal and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra play tribute to this screen and music legend, who died last year. 28 July 🎙️
- Prom 23: NYO Jazz (USA) with Dee Dee Bridgewater - Click your fingers along to jazz standards from the likes of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, at this performance from Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Dee Dee Bridgewater gets behind the mic. 1 Aug 🎷
- Prom 25: Relaxed Prom - Enjoy music from the likes of Mozart and Rachmaninov in a relaxed atmosphere. 3 Aug☺️
- Prom 27: Yuja Wang plays Rachmaninov - One of the great pianists plays one of the great pieces of music by one of the great composers. God, we love the Proms. 4 Aug 🎹
- Prom 36: A Space Odyssey - György Ligeti's ethereal duo of pieces Requiem and Lux aeterna helped make 2001: A Space Odyssey the seminal movie that it is. There's also Also sprach Zarathustra for dessert. You might also want to catch Prom 32: Holst's The Planets. 11 Aug 🪐
- Prom 57: Fantasy, Myths and Legends - Fans of swords and sorcery will want to journey to the RAH for this epic performance of scores from the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. 28 Aug 🧙♂️
- Prom 61: Chineke! performs Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony - Chineke! is made up of Black and ethnically diverse musicians, and while this show includes pieces by Beethoven and Haydn, there's also music from BAME composers Valerie Coleman, and Croydon legend Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. 1 Sept 🎻
How do I get tickets for the Proms?
Tickets for all performances are on sale now via the Proms website. If you're hoping to go to a number of shows, there's also a handy Proms Planner (though you'll need to register for this by 12 May). Or you can buy a physical paper (remember that?) Proms guide for £8.99.
If you want to be a proper 'prommer', read onto the next section...
What are the cheapest tickets at the Proms?
That'd be the 'promming' tickets. Until recent years, you'd have to pretend you had a headache at work, leave the office early, and queue to buy tickets on the door at the RAH. That's no longer the case. Around 1,000 promming tickets will be made available online for each performance* on 10.30am of the day of the concert. You can buy a maximum of two per person, and they cost £8 each (including booking fee).
If you prefer to keep it old school, you can still show up at Door 12 of the RAH on the day, and try to get your ticket that way. No promises you'll get in though.
*Promming tickets are NOT available for a handful of proms, namely Prom 3, 10, 11, 25, 29, 38, 54, 62, 64.
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, and it's quite the atmosphere). 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. While this year's CBeebies Prom is at Sage Gateshead, there are two performances of Horrible Histories: 'Orrible Opera (proms 10 & 11), at the RAH on 22 July.
Children aged 5-18 also get half-priced tickets to all proms.
Do I need to dress up posh?
Top hats and tailcoats please. Only joshing. Wear what you like, within reason. We've even seen some prommers stalk about barefoot in the gallery (arguably pretentious, but maybe it helps them contemplate Shostakovich or something).
When is the last night of the Proms?
Your flag needn't be a Union Flag. There was a myth started a few years back that EU flags are banned — it's not true.