Patriotic Victory for Last Night of the Proms

Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory WERE eventually sang during a very subdued Last Night of the Proms following weeks of controversy.

The BBC had previously planned to perform the two traditional songs without their lyrics, before making a U-turning following a heated debate about its decision.

However, the songs were not enjoyed by a live audience inside the iconic venue due to the current coronavirus restrictions. The two pieces sparked much controversy last month during a row over their ‘perceived ties’ to Britsh imperialism. Some of the lyrics considered contentious in the songs include the Rule, Britannia! lines: “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves”, and: “The nations, not so blest as thee / Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall / While thou shalt flourish great and free: The dread and envy of them all.”

A much-reduced orchestra of 65, instead of the usual 300, performed live at the Royal Albert Hall with the singers this time placed well away in the stalls to ensure the correct social distancing. image: Twitter

The 2020 Proms season was drastically curtailed by the coronavirus epidemic, with the usual six-week season cut down to a fortnight of live shows, performed without an audience. The programme was simplified in other ways, too – mostly featuring smaller works, with UK-based soloists and orchestras.

The Last Night opened with Mozart’s perennially popular The Marriage Of Figaro, and featured South-African soprano Golda Schultz singing Sondheim’s The Glamorous Life, and a new arrangement of Jerusalem, by composer Errollyn Wallen.

The broadcaster had earlier decided to play both pieces without voices following controversy over the lyrics’ perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery but announced on Wednesday it had decided to re-include them.

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Written by

Tony Winterburn

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