First Prom Concert
Now they are the BBC Proms, but in 1895 when they began they were Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts, Newman being an innovative musical entrepreneur and the man running The Queen’s Hall where the first concert was put on. His idea was to bring classical (and modern) music to the masses, giving British culture a lift and in the process making himself a few bob.
And the money did come in shillings, the cheapest tickets selling for that amount in a bid to reel in those who would not normally attend ‘serious music’ events.
At 8:00 on Saturday August 10 1895 the young conductor (and indeed all-round musician) Henry Wood conducted the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra in God Save the Queen, the first music ever heard at the Proms . The programme to contemporary eyes looks incredibly long, lasting around three hours though it did include many crowd-pleasers, and that crowd was permitted to smoke and eat during the performance.
Wagner’s overture to Rienzi was the second piece, followed by Leoncavallo, Chabrier, Saint-Saens, and Liszt among a host of others. The idea took, and Wood had what turned out to be a job for life. Not so, sad to say, Newman, who eventually after many successful seasons went bust.
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