Timid BBC retreats from Rule Britannia

Timid BBC retreats from Rule Britannia


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2020

The BBC announced tonight that Rule Britannia will not be sung on the Last Night of the Proms, following a protest by its Finnish guest conductor Dalia Stasevska.

The press release follows. The BBC will allow the tune to be played but not sung, thereby offending all shades of opinion all of the time. They are calling it ‘a collective decision’.

There is no excuse for such cowardice. At least one BBC head should roll.

Here’s what happened earlier today.

BBC statement: In light of the recent speculation about the Last Night of the Proms, we are today announcing the programme for the concert. We very much regret the unjustified personal attacks on Dalia Stasevska, BBC Symphony Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor made on social media and elsewhere. As ever, decisions about the Proms are made by the BBC, in consultation with all artists involved.

The Proms will reinvent the Last Night in this extraordinary year so that it respects the traditions and spirit of the event whilst adapting to very different circumstances at this moment in time. 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 programme will include a new arrangement by Errollyn Wallen of Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem alongside new orchestral versions of Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 “Land of Hope and Glory” (arr. Anne Dudley) and Rule Britannia! as part of the Sea Songs, as Henry Wood did in 1905.


  • Paul Dawson says:

    The world is facing many more serious issues than the role of Rule, Britannia at the Last Night of the Proms.

  • Mvarc says:

    If we get a return to full house Proms in 2021, I predict 2 things will happen. First, the Prommers will open the First Night with an a capella Rule, Britannia! just as the conductor raises his/her baton for the first piece, followed by an encore of Jerusalem.

    Second, Ms Stasevska will NOT appear during the season. This may seem unfair, un-British (oh spectacular irony!) even, but she will be advised of the high chances of a very negative response from the audience. She will inevitably, if unfairly, be seen as the symbol of the BBC’s decision and a too-obvious focus for people’s discontent, but clearly no one at the BBC seems to have thought this through.

  • marcus says:

    Nul points all round then-this will piss off everyone, so they have at least achieved that degree of unity. Another nail in the licence fee coffin then.

  • Bone says:

    So the audience will be gagged? Wow – free speech really is under assault by the crazies.

    • Player says:

      There is to be no audience, conveniently. So no one to argue with the BBC’s absurd decisions, or to have to remove if they dared to sing these songs anyway!

  • Minister says:

    Absolutely agree. The hour of reckoning is fast approaching for the BBC. Their relentless pursuit of woke politics is due to a disturbing imbalance in the political leanings of senior management, isolated in their echo chambers. They still haven’t realised they are out of touch with the overwhelming majority who have rightly had enough of identity politics. This decision to omit the words of Rule Britannia means that the banal cancel culture of the authoritarian left is now the proud domain of our very own BBC. Wave goodbye to it.

    The only hope for the BBC is that the new DG cuts a swathe through all this nonsense and replaces quotas, lip-service and box-ticking with actual merit. That is the only BBC that people will ultimately want to pay for.

    • Robert Carver says:

      Yes wave goodbye to Auntie of course. But this is a huge photo opportunity. Needs an aboriginal salute / fireworks / gala send-off, as a rusty vessel prominently named
      ‘BBC – Broadcasting Louse’ is towed out to sea to be blown up and left as an ephemeral wreck to be ‘Colonised’ by tin-worms and dived upon as she rots. Front page / millions of ‘hits’! It would incorporate the ceremonial launch of a National Land Acknowledgement Statement (Google it), and the service of a writ for fraudulent appropriation of public funds.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Next on the Woke block:

    Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate;
    va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
    ove olezzano tepide e molli
    l’aure dolci del suolo natal!

    Del Giordano le rive saluta,
    di Sionne le torri atterrate.
    O, mia patria, sì bella e perduta!
    O, membranza, sì cara e fatal!

    The first verse of the second stanza — “Greet the banks of the Jordan” (note “le rive”/“the banks”, plural) may be construed by the Woke as an acknowledgement, if not outright endorsement, of the annexation of the West Bank.

    The second verse of the same stanza, “and Zion’s toppled towers”, has VERBOTEN stamped all over it. No explanation needed.

    Off with Nabucco.
    The orchestra may play the tune, but the lyrics may never again be sung.
    Will guards intervene if the audience quietly hums it?

    Funny though. I’m willing to bet that the really offending vocable, hidden in plain sight in the first, eponymous verse, would pass unchallenged, although it is the most Woke-objectionable: ‘pensiero’. Thought.

    • Bill says:

      I’ve found that anyone who uses the term “Woke” is generally not worth the time of day. You provide a splendid illustration here.

      • Marfisa says:

        Absolutely agree, Bill. And the same goes for ‘gammon’, also cropping up too often here. Perhaps the moderator should asterisk any comment containing these terms to save us the trouble of reading them. (Not this comment, obviously!)

  • calclar says:

    The centuries of hegemony are over.
    We are the world.
    We are all in this together.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Since we are at it, could we destroy the French national anthem next? Including evicting it from “Casablanca”, where the feelings of the Nazis are clearly hurt by its awful text.

  • fflambeau says:

    Sorry, but I don’t think the BBC is being ‘timid’ here. They knew this would result in a firestorm.

    While “Rule Brittania” has lyrics that to me, are not imperialistic, the song was certainly expropriated by colonialists and imperialists for their use. It has taken on a meaning of its own, almost like “Dixie” in the USA. I think of it as a song glorifying colonialism and British gunboat “diplomacy”.

    So I think this action is taken with good interests. There are plenty of other good songs that can replace it.

    • Herbie G says:

      OK – so are we to ban all performanes of Haydn’s Emperor Quartet because the theme of the varitations that make up the slow movement was ‘appropriated’ for an odious political cause? Banning performances works that don’t conform with a political ideal is redolent of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. How long before these morons will want to ban our national anthem too? Those who espouse these ideals and want to bully and strike fear into us should do something that best suits their ambitions and mentalities – they should become traffic wardens and leave the rest of us alone.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Sorry that is nonsense. Let’s stop playing the National Anthem as well then!

    • Jules says:

      Yes, like You’ll never Walk Alone

  • MacroV says:

    You can’t stop the audience from singing, can you?

  • Vincent says:

    Completely wimpy behaviour from BBC, and a sign of our times. Progress is good, but not accepting the past and being unable to detect and teach difficult nuances is a cancer that plagues the world these days

    • John Rook says:

      It’s probably because the BBC supports it and are creaming themselves that this little upstart demanded it.

  • Michael B. says:

    Norman, I am absolutely shocked and disappointed at your lack of understanding and empathy, particularly when Ms. Schulz was to be one of the featured performers. Those songs are just about as offensive for Ms. Schulz and Ms. Nwanoku as the Horst-Wessel-Lied would be for you. Those songs, of little musical merit, should be disposed of, period.

    • Player says:

      Why did these performers agree to take this gig then, if they would be so offended at its content? If true, the tail would be wagging the dog. In fact, the BBC is slyly trying to blame the performers for a non-existent dilemma and a mess of its own making.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    If some version of Rule Britannia is mandatory, why not substitute it with the overture that Richard Wagner wrote. It has the same tune , no words and presumably less chauvinism as the composer was a non-Brit.

    • Herbie G says:

      Sorry Mustafa, but following your train of thought Wagner will have to be banned too – an out-and-out racist who is guilty by association because Hitler liked his music. Oh, and the same goes for Franz Lehar too – no more Merry Widow!

  • V. Lind says:

    The sound you hear is that of TV licences being torn up across the country.

    They may actually have made the best choice, as RB and L/H/G could sound a bit tentative with only a token choir while a good instrumental arrangement — how it was written originally, after all — could be quite satisfactory. Not to worry — once the prommers are back, they will take care of at least the first verse! The one everyone knows. And some enterprising person could hand out lyric sheets as they went in.

    (I speculated yesterday as to the likely motivation for You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s a good song, American or not — maybe the musical ignorami who populate the BBC these days also think it is a Liverpool song! And it has taken on, thanks to the people who weekly populate Anfield, a kind of anthemic character).

    I suppose they had to defend their invited artist who is, after all, their employee as well. (Though they were quick enough to sanction Naga Munchetty when they were displeased with her, though they did reverse their ruling). Perhaps in future they will be a little more clear when they hire Last Night conductors: let them know that part of their remit is a set programme.

    Because they had better reset the traditional programme. I expect them to be inundated with complaints. By couching the change in musical terms and blaming it on Covid 19, they have paved the way for restoration.

    But I am wary: they have on their PR strength someone familiar with all the buzzwords and clichés: reinvent, curate, inclusive — all words that make my teeth ache — as well as the ever lamentable “this moment in time.” That, alas, is probably far too much in line with top brass “thinking” at the Beeb.

    I don’t usually tune in Feedback, but I think I will this week. I expect the radio waves will be buzzing with this, and I enjoyed Sky’s Press Preview.

    If it weren’t that the days will be closing in by the time of Last Night, I would suggest that the country resurrect the momentum of “Clap for the NHS” on Thursday evenings and get out on the streets while their TVs or radios blazed out the travesty (the craven cave-in, not the version, which will probably be quite agreeable) and sing along at the top of their voices. Kind of an “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”

    But I am very much afraid that we are going to have to take quite a bit more of this sort of thing before reason prevails. The BBC is not alone in bowing to the “very different circumstances at this moment in time.” And neither I, nor they, are talking about Covid.

    As for Last Night: they should be bloody glad they will not have a live audience at the ROH. They would be booed off the stage. Meanwhile, I hope they are buried under a landslide of complaints. And as long as they are interested in “diversity,” it’s time they hired a few non-wokes to try to break through their groupthink mentality.

    • Geoff says:

      Stasevska actually never commented anywhere. The tabloids just put words in her mouth to sell more papers. Including a young talented woman in a polarizing article always seems to be a great way to piss people off.

      • Schoenberglover says:

        The abuse the conductor is getting on social media is absolutely vile.

      • Mvarc says:

        Sorry Geoff, by accepting (many months ago) the invitation to conduct the last night, she must have known both what she was going to be asked to conduct and also the special traditional context of the concert: by continuing to agree to conduct (obviously a tacit agreement to conduct the controversial pieces in wordless versions) she must accept any criticism of or praise for her decision and that of the BBC.

    • Herbie G says:

      Well said V Lind. We have had ‘clap for the NHS’ (though why we should wish them a dreadful disease I don’t know) and now let’s have ‘Crap for the BBC’.

  • anonymous says:

    Is this not what you wanted to happen Norman? If they had gotten rid of RB would you not ask for BBC heads to roll? How can they win?

  • John Rook says:

    Pathetic bunch of traitors.

  • Novagerio says:

    Try to forbid the “offensive” text of La Marseillaise while we are at it…

  • JB says:

    What possible reason can there be to keep the tradition? It’s not as if it’s particularly good music. Rather, its only purpose is to act as a jingoistic reminder of the halcyon days of the empire, her subjects dutifully bobbing in obeisance.

    • Marfisa says:

      Good music? Matter of opinion (I happen to like it).
      If you actually read the poem (admittedly, prommers probably don’t think about them), the theme is to keep Britain free from tyranny (free from Danish incursions, in the context of Arne’s masque King Alfred) by maintaining a strong navy to defend its own shores. There is nothing about subjugating other nations.
      I am torn on this one. Can people not occasionally enjoy being unashamedly British, and celebrate what is good in British history (it is not entirely evil)! Has the Union Flag really just become a symbol of hatred? But then again, a proms tradition which began with patriotic zeal over a hundred years ago when there was a British empire, and met the national mood in the aftermath of World War II (in comparison Covid-19 looks trivial), has probably lost its raison d’être.
      Time for something new and better!

  • Proms hater says:

    On the contrary – this is an elegant solution, dealing with the primary concerns (how ridiculous it would sound being sung to an empty hall), while still allowing the ‘traditionalists’ to have their red meat. They are welcome to sing-along and wave their UKIP flags at home, and the rest of us can finally enjoy the music for what it is, rather than having the populist nonsense added to it. Nobody is being ‘denied’ anything, and there is absolutely nothing for anyone to be ‘outraged’ about (of course, some will still try to stir the pot and concoct some faux outrage – yawn). There are plenty of decisions to disagree with regarding how the Proms is being put together, but this is not one of them. Diplomatic, sensible, and (last but not least) with some artistic merit.

    • Novagerio says:

      Getting offended by the traditional jokes at the Last Night of the Proms is like stepping on dog poop on purpose instead of walking around it.
      Doesn’t the world have serious problems enough than taking into account the vanity of publicity-seeking conductors?

  • Wesley says:

    Another nail in the coffin of the licence fee. Not many nails left to go now…

  • Stereo says:

    Until the BBC comes to it’s senses I think we’ll forget the LNOP. Why can’t they just tell their conductor of choice this is the programme, accept it or forget the gig.

    • Conductor2 says:

      We don’t like being told what to do.

      • V. Lind says:

        Well, yah boo sucks to you. It’s a gig. It has a remit. You don’t have to do it.

        The musicians engaged for July 4 concerts in Washington may be involved in programming choices, but hell mend them if they omit the standard set of US self-aggrandising songs, like America the Beautiful, etc. The Last Night of the Proms is the closest the UK comes to the national day celebrations of other countries.

  • Jackyt says:

    They could follow the example of Juan Diego Florez, who gave us Rule Britannia in 2016, dressed as the Last Ruler of the Incas, complete with ceremonial sword, bowed down to by the conductor. At the end he raised one eyebrow for a moment, just to indicate this was all a good-humoured joke. His costume was specially made in Peru, helping the Peruvian tourist industry. It was all great fun, and can be seen on YouTube.

    • mary says:

      Florez has not a single drop of Incan blood in him, more likely, his ancestors killed off the Incans, by violence or by disease or by both.

      Cultural appropriation on top of colonialism on top of genocide on top of imperialism: All in a single performance. Bravo.

  • Jan says:

    Will you also stop the singing of our National Anthem. Come on BBC keep up our traditions and if the conductor is opposed then replace her

  • AndrewB says:

    The Rule Britannia in the Sea Songs used to turn up occasionally in the past as an alternative to a version for Contralto soloist and chorus .

    Once the soloist started to wear a costume the soloist and chorus version became a fixture with the audience waiting to see how the soloist would be dressed as part of the fun – remembering Sarah Walker’s wondrous gowns , Della Jones’ Welsh dragon flag , Juan Diego Florez in Peruvian style, Dame Gwyneth as Britannia herself and many more.

    It seems to me that the BBC has cautiously found a compromise route in this debate.

    I am sad to hear that Dalia Stasevska has been subjected to personal attacks. That really doesn’t solve anything . I will be interested to hear the promised new orchestrations and arrangements.

    My one question is what will Ms Stasevska do during the Rule Britannia moment of the Sea Songs . After all I am quite sure that there will be many people singing along in front of their TV sets . The tune is so consciously linked to the words . Will she simply stop conducting for that part? We will see how this resolves on the night.

  • John Salter says:

    Oh dear, Norman, you don”t give up, do you? I suppose you won’t be happy until there is no longer a BBC to continually moan about. I hope you understand what you’re doing, though I fear not… It’s very sad, really…

  • Bored Muso says:

    Hurrah ! yes, no, maybe! Bollocks! as they say on W1A……

  • Akutagawa says:

    If I recall, Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia were also not played in 2001, in the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States, and COVID has had a much more serious impact on the life of this nation than those events on the other side of the Atlantic. Why not just wait and hear what these new arrangements sound like before rushing to judgment? They might be beautiful, and if they don’t work out, normal service can always resume at some point in the future.

    • Bored Muso says:

      Indeed, but the choice of arrangers (both female, of course), and primarily known for their compositions rather than quality arrangements is sufficient to raise concern. That and the need for arrangements in any case imply a reduced orchestra to play them….

    • Herbie G says:

      …or why don’t we just leave things as they are and allow millions who see this spectacle every year, either live or on the air, to enjoy themselves as they always have done. I’ll change my mind if you can show me how changing the programme of the LNOTP will stop the murderous brutality of the USA police and get rid of a brainless megalomaniac fake president.

      • Akutagawa says:

        It’s not possible to leave things as they are this year because of social distancing rules and restrictions on communal singing that apply to everybody in the UK. I haven’t been able to sing with my choir since March, and I miss it very much.

  • Bored Muso says:

    Why waste licence payers money on new arrangements of these otherwise fine orchestrations to get the BBC out of the hole? Just drop the items, (please, not You’ll Never Walk Alone AGAIN!) and sack the foreign conductor for not complying and ticking boxes….

    • James Weiss says:

      You’ll Never Walk Alone is a treacly, syrupy American song just reeking of overly emotional sentimentality. #resist.

      • Bored Muso says:

        When Richard Rodgers was told that his and Oscar Hammerstein’s finale from their musical Carousel , You’ll Never Walk Alone’ had been hijacked for some inexplicable reason by scousers for their beloved footy team supporters, he was known to nearly have a heart attack (probably cos he wouldn’t benefit from the royalties), Those of us who since, have to endure it at another Prom feel similar….
        And why should an American pop song be used at this sorry time? there are plenty of British alternatives…. or just play the theme to W1A instead……?

  • RW2013 says:

    Have I ever pointed out what an awful conductress the “Finnisg guest conductor Dalia Staseva=ska” (sic) is?

    • Tim says:

      You probably have. But I’d say no one should listen unless you’ve played with her – you can’t judge anything from watching (especially a YouTube video).

    • May says:

      No, but thank you for pointing out what a dreadful composer Julia Wolfe is.

    • kjpmaestro says:

      Sad but true, I actually know conducting colleagues who use this video as a lesson on the basics of how not to conduct an orchestra – and especially not the men and women at Detroit SO.

      • RW2013 says:

        Thanks for revealing this kjpmaestro.
        But that could be said of ALL her videos.
        The prime example, her Sibelius 7 seems to have been removed from public view.

  • Tim says:

    Speaking as someone who played Rule Britannia in a BBC Orchestra last summer I can say that most of us now feel uncomfortable playing it to hundreds of Union Jack wavers. We’ve reached a point in time where it feels inappropriate and the BBC has little choice this year, with all that’s happened in very similar topics, but to abandon them. It’s not just me, it’s a widespread feeling among musicians.

    • Back desk says:

      Tim, you are paid to play the dots, not to have an opinion. Otherwise refuse the gig! And musos love to moan anyway.

      • Tim says:

        Do you really think that orchestras, with far greater diversity in the future, will collectively agree to play these things?

        There’s not a chance, and that’s the future, regardless of keyboard warriors.

    • Wesley says:

      Yes, you all always look so miserable during the LNOTP. Just so we’re clear: do you object playing it to all flag wavers (i.e. those with EU flags, for example, or German or Italian ones, as you often see), or just those with your own country’s flag?

      • Player says:

        Tee hee! Good question.

      • Tim says:

        Where am I from Wesley? You seem so certain.

        • Wesley says:

          Why not enlighten us, then? But my point still stands – is it just the Union Jack you don’t like, or flag-waving generally? Anyone who’s attended or watched a Last Night concert in recent years will know that one sees flags waved from countries all over the world – even the people waving the EU ones don’t seem to have a problem joining in with the fun.

          • Tim says:

            I’ll tell you what, Wes – I’m not a musician because I want to play to flag wavers of any kind.

            I kinda think that music transcends all that.

    • James Weiss says:

      If you’re “uncomfortable” playing music then maybe seek another profession. Burger-flipper jobs are plentiful.

      • Player2 says:

        The beauty of art, James, is that we get to make it. If you don’t want to listen to it you don’t have to – not many people wanted to hear Eroica when it was first written – but we’ll carry on playing and composing regardless. I’m confident that there are enough good people coming to concerts to guarantee the art form’s survival without you.

      • Tim says:

        Isn’t it interesting to read what professional musicians who actually have to play the stuff think?

        I’m not offended by your comments, I just think the things said here, and the fact they pass moderation, make me shake my head in disbelief. There must be something so wrong with you to make you think it’s ok to try that hard to offend total strangers. I wish you well.

        • James Weiss says:

          What’s distressing is to think that “musicians” can be so narrow-minded as to tell the rest of us how to think and feel. You’re paid to play the music the public wants to hear. If you don’t wish to do that you’re free to choose another profession. I think most people are sick and tired of a few “woke” people trying to tell the rest of us what is good or bad. Just stop.

          • Player2 says:

            Incorrect. In the case of most London orchestras, we pay ourselves to play the music we want to play.

  • John humphreys says:

    With a determination to rid the last night of the Proms of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘Rule Britania’, etc would it not be wise also to demolish the Royal Albert Hall as a symbol of a rotten imperialist age. Indeed whilst about it get rid of every memory of that wily old bird, Queen Victoria presiding, as she did over an Empire of which she was inordinately fond? Get rid of all the museums in Kensington also – no guarantee that they weren’t built on dodgy money. Perhaps the BBC might sensibly become just BC…or perhaps PC? God help any pianist who has the temerity to include Beethoven’s ‘Rule Britania’ Variations in his/her recital programmes! What times we live in seeking both purification and atonement in equal measure. More seriously, if we were involved in overseas conflict then it might seem inappropriate – Mark Elder refusing to conduct the Last Night during the Falklands War as I remember. But we are not in conflict (except with ourselves it appears)

    • Wesley says:

      The Elder incident happened during the Iraq War, but otherwise you are spot on. Is there any other country in the world whose culture is so despised by its own cultural elite?

    • Herbie G says:

      John, you will insist on beinging common sense and reasonableness into this. That won’t cut any ice with those sawdust Caesers who demand this and that and who, if they don’t get their way, will ‘thcream and thcream’ and then smash our statues, have huge demonstrations (contrary to the law) torch our buildings, beat up innocent people and generally act like hooligans. Welcome to the Weimar Republic.

  • John Rook says:

    Click below to revoke the licence fee through legislation:


    • Gustavo says:

      Rule Britannia!
      Britannia, rule the seas!
      Britons, never, never, never shall pay their fees!

      Rule Britannia!
      Britannia, rule the seas!
      Britons, never, never, never miss cbeebies!

    • Counterpoint says:

      Thanks for attaching this John. I have signed the petition.

      • Counterpoint says:

        I have signed the petition for Parliament to debate abolition of the licence fee through legislation with great sadness. However, for some time it has been clear to me in so many ways that culturally and politically the BBC is embarrassed to have a middle aged and class, white male from the rural south-west like me as a viewer. The desired audience is metropolitan plus at least one of leftist, BAME and young. The rest of us are surplus to requirements. For several years I have tried to rationalise that by paying the TV licence fee I am at least indirectly supporting the costs of Radio 3 and the musicians in the orchestras. But now enough is enough and it is time the BBC looked for funding from those directly that it wishes to serve.

  • Stephen Munslow says:

    There is one criterion, and only one criterion that matters when it comes to judging actions, including the singing of songs: does it cause harm? If not, then there is no reason to prevent it being done. (See John Stuart Mill passim). Of course, the woke response to this is to redefine harm in such a way that it encompasses as wide a spectrum of activities as possible, most crucially, that transient and harmless form of emotional discomfort colloquially known as “having hurt feelings” or “being offended”.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    I sent this to The Guardian:

    “Objecting to “Rule, Britannia!” at the Last Night of the Proms, Chi-chi Nwanoku, founder of the Chineke! Orchestra, claims that the line that Britons shall never be slaves “implies that it’s OK for others to be slaves but not us.” (‘BBC may drop Rule Britannia from Proms Last night,’ August 24, p. 9) It implies nothing of the kind. Ms Nwanoku would do well to consider the song in the light of the political orthodoxy of 18th-century Britain, derived largely from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, according to which absolute monarchy (such as was supposed to have been the aim of the exiled Stuarts and was generally supposed to exist in France and some other Continental countries) was equivalent to the people being the ruler’s slaves, in contrast to government resting on the consent of the people, which Britain prided itself on having established in 1689 and thereafter. The song, dating from 1740, expresses, not a justification for the enslavement of non-Britons, but a determination to resist the sort of regime which the Stuarts and their French allies (in 1745 and at other times) allegedly sought to impose on Britain. ”

    Possibly The Guardian won’t print it…

    • Ken says:

      That is heavenly erudite. Thank you. And they damn well ought to.

    • Derek says:

      Thank you for posting this.

      I have time for Chi-Chi Nwanoku but am very disappointed in her jumping to conclusions and making assumptions.

      It is good spirited fun and inclusive. People of all nations (look at the range of flags!) sing the songs as part of the last night of the Proms celebrations to enjoy themselves!

    • V. Lind says:


  • icebreaker says:

    I have attended the last night when young as a promenader, and quite enjoyed it then as an ‘experience’. I’ve also reviewed a couple of last nights, but never really looked forward to the last items on the programme. Having heard them annually via broadcasts I have had my fill of them, recognising what lies behind some of the lyrics. It doesn’t mean I am ‘unpatriotic’ or anything, but neither did I seek to be unkind to those that were there and obviously enjoying themselves.

  • Robert Mrozek says:

    The 11:30 a.m. news summary on the BBC News Channel maintains that the words won’t be sung because of there being no audience (and no choir?) and that the expectation is for the items to be restored in their usual format in 2021.

  • Rob says:

    They should just cut to Auld Lang Syne at the end and have done with it.

  • Steven Jones says:

    Replace the conductor! That’s been done before, for similar reasons, I seem to remember.
    Get someone with more gravitas too!

  • James Weiss says:

    What a bunch of craven cowards. I wonder if we’ll get a “warning label” like the one recently added to film classic Gone with the Wind?
    You simply can’t give an inch to the “woke” brigade. They must be fought and resisted every step of the way or they will succeed in erasing every tradition people hold dear.

  • Steven Jones says:

    I shall not be surprised (shall is stronger than will – Rule’s chorus!) if it continues to feature strongly in Raymond Gubbay Ltd’s last night concerts, when they resume. I know he took Classical Spectacular to Scandinavia – and I have a vague memory that it was taken to Germany too.
    What’s going to happen to comedy now? Nearly every joke can be taken offence to by one group or another.
    God help us if they do find a way of reading our minds!

  • E Rand says:

    the woke barbarians have entered through the gates, not by virtue of overwhelming strength, or compelling argument, but because the woke, have let them in. Now let the west enjoy it’s Wokistan.

    The Left destroys everything it touches.

  • Jonathan says:

    You could put the spin on the story either way. It’s still being played, just not sung. Until a few years ago, they had reverted to only playing “Rule, Britannia!” as part of the Sea Songs, rather than the separate version for soloist and chorus. While the audience naturally joined in with the chorus, there were no verses (and to be honest, who really knows or cares about the rest of the words?) I actually prefer this version. It’s already not going to be the same with no audience, so I don’t really see an issue.

    It’s interesting that they need a new arrangement of “Land of Hope and Glory” without the words. I’m sure I’ve heard something similar before, part of a set of marches by Elgar.

  • Jack says:

    So glad Anne Dudley reorchestrated Sir Edward Elgar’s obviously poor orchestration of his own work. (Smirk)

  • George K says:

    I’ve played for many concerts of this type (I didn’t work for the BBC). At first, 40 years ago, I was just baffled. Later I grew to despise those red faced sweaty shouting people, the embodiment of nasty string-vest nationalism. I don’t know a single musician who enjoys this rancid garbage. If it takes covid to get rid of these horrible vulgarities, rather than articulate protesting that has gone on for some years now, that’s fine. I just hope it’s permanent.

    • Jonathan says:

      I don’t know what sort of concerts you’ve performed in, but clearly not the Proms (as we know from your comment). I have never come across people at the Proms exhibiting the sort of “nasty nationalism” you describe. In fact, a good proportion are the exact opposite, left-leaning, intelligent people who supported remaining in the EU (as evidenced by the flags the BBC got into trouble over). However, what people do like is tradition, and good tunes with rousing lyrics that they can join in with. I don’t think they are thinking about empire or about being superior to other races; they are simply proud of being British and our traditions (including, of course, the BBC itself). If certain anthems have been misappropriated by the far right, we should reclaim them rather than give in and stop using them.

      If I was living in another country, and had the opportunity to attend a concert culminating in that country’s patriotic songs, I would love it, even if they were songs with historical references to beating the British in battle.

      Before I had ever attended the actual Last Night, I went in 2010 to a recreation of the 1910 Last Night. It featured the Sea Songs ending with Henry Wood’s arrangement of “Rule, Britannia!” with lyrics only for the chorus (great with the organ joining in too – I was just watching the video). The thing I really remember is a French couple who were standing next to me. They had their programme out and were enthusiastically joining in with this and the National Anthem. The French would never scrap their favourite patriotic songs, and wouldn’t expect us to do to so, either. The Proms isn’t about narrow nationalism, it’s about people of all nations coming together to have a good time.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Pity we just can’t get rid of conductors with idiot woke opinions which they foist on the rest of us. I shall join the protest against the licence fee.

    • Ken says:

      Can we please just ban the meme “woke” on this site? It’s become less than meaningless, and was already grammatically offensive when it was new only so few years ago. There must be something else.

  • Duncan says:

    Aside from the heated issue of the words to ‘Rule Britannia’, there is the issue of the ‘arrangements’: Elgar has provided us with the perfectly satisfactory wordless version of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ in his Pomp and Circumstance’ original, so why on earth does it require arranging? As for ‘Jerusalem’ we already have both the composer’s own orchestration and Elgar’s version ( which is the one usually played). It feels rather like pandering to some politically correct whim to commission another orchestration. Personally, I don’t think anyone will ever top Elgar’s brilliant ‘arrows of desire’ in the fiddles! Very disappointed with the BBC, especially as the Proms archive performances have been so excellent.

    • Anon says:

      The reason for the commissioning of new orchestral arrangements will be because of limited space on stage this year, due to the social distancing required between the musicians (2m between each player currently). The existing versions are likely for many more musicians than will fit under current safety requirements.

  • George says:

    Well done Norman. You have outed the outraged gammons in fine style.

    • John Rook says:

      It’s not the ‘gammons’ who deal in outrage, it’s the brainless, face-value, ignorant ‘woke’ who seek to destroy anything they do not understand. That’s means pretty much everything. Some people object, and those are the voices of protest you have read.

      • Marfisa says:

        George – John Rook, Would somebody who thinks that there are good arguments on both sides of this debate be a ‘woke gammon’?

  • BrianB says:

    Keep Arne, ditch Staveska.

  • BadBoyBaddie says:

    Kick out Dalia Stasevska.
    He may happily “not play Rule Britannia” back in Finnland.

  • Paul Wilson says:

    ‘The programme will include a new arrangement by Errollyn Wallen of Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem’ – why? What’s wrong with the traditional version?

  • MRK says:

    Absolutely no surprise that, judging by the comments below, Slipped Disc is a festering swamp for frothing, irate gammons whining about songs not being performed in a concert attended by nobody and barely registering (even outside of a global pandemic) on the national or, indeed, international consciousness.

    Lebrecht has shown himself to be his own peculiar form of intransigent gammon, vehemently bleating about the supposed ‘tradition’ of a tacky and gaudy embarrassment in the classical musical calendar (whilst, no doubt, droning on yet again about attending recording sessions of Mahler symphonies with Tennstedt (no-one has ever cared that you were there, Norman)).

    Nobody is ‘censoring’ the songs – the sheet music will still exist, recordings of them will still exist, and they can still be performed if anyone has enough of an appalling taste in music to wish to programme them. They are musically trite, bland, and crushingly dull, but they will (regrettably) endure.

    The Last Night of the Proms is a frightful and cringe-worthy spectacle, abjectly devoid of musical/artistic worth or merit, which true and discerning classical music connoisseurs and practitioners view with rightfully-sneering condescension and disdain. The latter half of the evening, in which these particular songs ordinarily appear, shoulders the majority of the blame for this view, and rightfully so.

    To the apoplectic (and no doubt elderly) philistines who have previously commented whingeing about ‘woke politics’ and ‘censorship’: let it go. The songs in question are objectively artistically-barren and your vicious and vehement defence of them on the grounds of ‘tradition’ does not hide your rather limpid intention of desperately clinging on to the antiquated (to the point of mythic) notion that Britain still has an empire and a meaningful place on the global stage. A hilariously tiny proportion of the world cares about anything Britain does (unless it affects them or their economy) and an evening tinier proportion care about whether a concert in Britain includes some tedious and vapid songs. Get over it and move on; you’re boring us.

  • Geoff says:

    I notice you say on the BBC linked article that the songs ‘bring us together’. This is completely untrue as they clearly do the opposite. I hate them as do many. Get rid of them. They haven’t even been used at the Proms for that long. It is a festival of music not a jingoistic ‘celebration’ of Britain and the Empire. Why can’t people move on and let go of the past? Traditions are not sacrosanct and can be got rid of if no longer fit for purpose and this is a classic example. Banging on about ‘woke’ and PC won’t change anything: they are out-of-date and embarrassing and should go.

  • Nijinsky says:

    “We very much regret the unjustified personal attacks on Dalia Stasevska, BBC Symphony Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor made on social media and elsewhere.”

    If that’s taken seriously, the punctuation, it actually says that she made the unjustified personal attacks on herself, otherwise it would be punctuated with a comma, after stating her position: “BBC Symphony Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor, made on social media and elsewhere.”

    She’s been altered, apparently. How many of her are there?

    • Robert Carver says:

      Superb! In the conspicuous absence of any denial from Stasi, the ‘unjustified’ claim seems unjustified.

  • Dianne says:

    How dare this woman who is not even qualified to try and tell us what this country should sing about. This has always been our heritage not here. What a cheek. Go back home love and sort your own country out. Keep out of our heritage.

    • karajanman says:

      Hmmm….”Go back home”….now where have I heard that before??? As for the condescending “love”…nuff said!

  • Robert Carver says:

    Auntie claims that neither RB nor LHG can keep their words because they ‘won’t sound right without a singalong audience’.
    However, Auntie has chosen to drop that excuse when it comes to ‘Jerusalem’, which WILL be sung – by Golda Schultz – because Auntie has commissioned Erollyn Waller to Bowdlerise it (in accordance with diktak); and it is dedicated to Windrush. That will magically make it uniquely singable just by a soloist doncha know.
    Ah, right, got it; so a woked-up ‘Jerusalem’ WILL sound fine when sung without a singalong audience whereas RB & LHG wouldn’t? Hmmm, they’ve never been sung by a soloist, er, oops. Have they?!
    Does Auntie think we’re that stupid?
    Anyone seen the lovely new words for ‘Jerusalem’? No? Now why wouldn’t Auntie want us to see them yet?
    P.S. Any rebel singers in the orchestra? Better frisk them all for cribsheets.