BBC Proms play for time

BBC Proms play for time


norman lebrecht

April 11, 2020

The summer’s Proms are in limbo. Due to begin mid-July, no programme has been announced and no tickets put on sale.

The BBC has put out the following holding statement:

Like all cultural organisations, we at the BBC Proms are currently dealing with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty. We are still hoping that the Proms will be part of the summer this year, although that will involve adapting and changing the festival we originally planned. We are working hard to find the best way to deliver Sir Henry Wood’s mission to make the best classical music available to the widest possible audience.

Due to the current situation we are delaying the announcement of our season, the publication of the Official Proms Guide and tickets won’t be going on sale on 16 May as had been planned. We are closely following developing news and guidance from the government and public health authorities, and will update everyone with our plans for the 125th-anniversary season of the Proms by the end of May. Our number one priority will always be the safety of everyone involved with, and attending the Proms.

All of us at the BBC Proms stand with music lovers everywhere and cultural friends and artists around the world affected by COVID-19.



  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I have tickets for 2021 Leipzig Mahler festival, I am not even sure whether it will be possible to attend that event. It is irresponsible to run BBC Proms in July.

    • Robin Smith says:

      Why ? There is the possibility of performances without an audience at RAH but direct to people at home watching their televisions or listening on the radio. Heavy testing to safeguard the musicians/technicians/presenters etc with the possibility of some of the lockdown rules being relaxed if appropriate. It would be something to look forward to. Something similar may be possible with regard to professional sport.
      We’ll see. Perhaps it will be a reduced season.

  • Tim says:

    Good for them. They haven’t said the festival will definitely happen, they’ve said they hope something might happen.

    It’s wrong to judge them until we know exactly what those plans might be.

    Perhaps the Beeb are in a fortunate position whereby they can afford to wait and see (unlike so many other festivals).

    They are no more irresponsible than all the other summer festivals and sporting events who’ve postponed until September – the Proms could find a responsible way to run in August and September.

    Clearly, they have another advantage in that they’re also broadcast and televised – that could also lead to an opportunity for them to continue.

    • Ron Swanson says:

      The BBC also have the resources to do the proms without a live audience and can stand the financial hit of not having ticket sales. Perhaps a change towards chamber music for this year could a solution.

      • Robin Smith says:

        They already have chamber performances at Cadogan Hall in a normal season.

        • Ron Swanson says:

          Just from a practical point of view, maintaining a gap between performers isn’t possible with a full orchestra. Replacing orchestral works with chamber music, solo piano and lieder is just easier logistically.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      The Proms depend entirely on audience participation. It is illusory to suggest that the BBC could stage anything with its house orchestras – all wearing face-masks? – without an audience being present. Even if they could, would they really want to play to an empty Royal Albert Hall? Other promoters like the Edinburgh Festival, with a scheduled start much later than the Proms, have done the right thing in cancelling this year’s festival. It takes courage to take the right decisions at critical moments. I’m not sure there’s a lot of courage at the BBC at present.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Why is it “the right thing” to cancel? If it is possible to run the festival in some form, then “the right thing” is to run it.

        Given the venue and the BBC orchestras are already paid for, it is easy for the Proms to run at pretty short notice. There are also plenty of other London orchestras who could play too, if required.

        The Edinburgh festival (and others) have to make a decision now since their orchestras and venues need to be hired, and the logistics of moving the orchestra to Edinburgh paid for.

        The lockdown will not last forever. It is likely it will start to be relaxed in late May or early June.

        • Alexander Hall says:

          Your last sentence indicates you are privy to information that eludes the rest of us (and that includes the Government’s own scientific experts). No expert anywhere on earth and certainly no futurologists, who are even now piping up with their interminable analyses of the way the world will look X days from now, nor any astrologist predicted the extent of this global crisis. In order to run any kind of festival you will need all the performers to feel entirely comfortable sitting in close proximity to everybody else (Will all foreign soloists and conductors have to be first quarantined? Think again on that!), and audiences too will think twice about spending two hours or so next to unfamiliar individuals who might well expel their own viral loads the moment they clear their throats in the usual way. The BBC has lagged well behind all other major promoters in failing to see that it will take a very long time indeed before any semblance of normality is likely to be restored. Nobody wants to be a party pooper but those in executive positions need to be well tuned in to the real world.

      • Ron Swanson says:

        So instead of compromising with reality you would rather see musicians lose more income.

  • Rob says:

    Cancel the whole bloody thing. For goodness sake.

  • David says:

    BBC Proms have given me so much over the last 30 years. However, similar to the Olympics, this statement suggests that this institution is entrenched within its own self-importance, I’m afraid to say. Having orchestras, performers, cameramen, broadcast workers, Royal Albert Hall staff – all working and travelling during this period (even if no audience present and the concerts are only broadcast) – well, I’m not sure that’s responsible. I love the Proms, and everything it does, but the show can’t go on. Please TV broadcast great Proms concerts from the last 40-50 years, from July-September, and also broadcast globally. Any monies raised from the global broadcasts can be donated to classical music performers who are going through hard times and also to the NHS.

  • William says:

    Cannot imagine how performances can be salvaged. Orchestra/artist performances depend upon touring within Europe.

    Will there be transport? Will there be sponsors with money.

    Will there be transport within the UK/Europe/worldwide for audiences?

    Will there be overnight accommodation?

    Perhaps the best possibility might be for a two week festival featuring music college students from UK and Europe.

    Orchestral/choral/solo and chamber.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      It can be run only with London orchestras.

      • Christopher Clift says:

        Assuming the Proms DO go ahead (and that they will is at the moment pure speculation), orchestras from Birmingham, Bournemouth and Cardiff are all within an hour or so drive from London (especially with roads rather less crowded at the minute) so as well as London-based players they COULD contribute without having to stay overnight. BUT there would still be the coach travel to organise within the social spacing parameters. Not an easy task for anyone to arrange.

        • Tommy says:

          In order for the Cardiff orchestras to get to the RAH ‘within an hour or so’ their coaches would need to travel at a constant 150mph.
          The CBSO coach would have to go at 120mph and the Bournemouth SO coach at 107mph.

          I’m not sure that’s an entirely safe approach.

  • Olassus says:

    Filled with cliché. Edits:

    currently dealing with — — — now facing
    challenges and — — — delete
    although — — — but
    involve — — — mean
    originally — — — delete
    deliver — — — serve
    paragraph break — — — delete
    due to the current situation — — — delete
    official proms guide — — — comma needed
    as had been planned — — — delete
    closely — — — delete
    developing — — — delete
    update everyone with — — — announce

    all of us at the BBC Proms stand with music lovers everywhere and cultural friends and artists around the world affected by COVID-19 — — — delete

    God help the English language!

  • Leo Doherty says:

    The problem with the BBC s approach is that there is emergency legislation in place for 6 months I think that stops social gatherings, concerts etc so I think any attempt by the BBC to plan any gatherings in the summer would be illegal. It’s a tough call right enough.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The full lockdown will not last for 6 months. The lockdown in Britain is almost certainly going to start being relaxed in late May or early June. Some kind of gatherings will be allowed in July/August, even if things will not have returned fully to normal.

      Spain, Austria and Denmark have already started the process of relaxing the lockdown. Sweden never really implemented one.

      • Leo Doherty says:

        I doubt the politicians will think the BBC Proms is an essential service in the wider scheme of things.

  • Dr Mark Carter says:

    I think this season will be hard to pull off in any way we have recently known it.

    However the RAH has a wonderful organ, that we do not hear from enough, especially at the Proms. I would love to have a whole season of organ Proms. There is a vast repertory of music for the instrument. In the UK you have a huge pool of really fine organists.

    I would just love to have this season be an excuse to explore the vast treasure of music for the King of Instruments. There would be no need for an audience.

    There could also be other soloists with the organist for some works, for instance organ and brass.

    A wonderful and unique season could be created for broadcast that could be really exciting.