The BBC Proms will return this summer at the Royal Albert Hall – complete with an audience and Rule, Britannia!
Crowds will be allowed back in at the iconic venue for 52 concerts spanning across six weeks and featuring 30 orchestras and ensembles.
Last year, the shows featured a reduced line-up playing to an empty venue, with performers in the stalls so that social distancing could be observed.
But this year, there will be an audience of at least 1,000 people – which will help mark the 150th anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall, as well as 80 years since it first hosted the Proms.
Director of the Proms David Pickard said it would be a “very moving moment” when the “first notes sound” when the event opens at the end of July.
“It’s partly been the circumstances which made us go in this direction, but it feels absolutely right for where we are at the moment,” he said. “I feel the Proms is going to be a curtain-raiser for what we hope will be normality. We are all itching to get there, we are going to be first off the block.”
This year will also see the full return of Rule, Britannia! – after only instrumental versions were used in 2020 following criticism over perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery.
Traditionally, the song is performed by an orchestra and belted out by the audience on the Last Night Of The Proms, but the BBC came in for intense criticism last year when it was revealed no lyrics would be used.
It was later put back in the programme with a handful of vocalists singing, but this year will see it come back fully, along with Land Of Hope And Glory.
More than 50 musicians will make their Proms debut over the course of the event, including Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Vikingur Olafsson and Abel Selaocoe, and there will be four as yet unprogrammed mystery evenings, which will be revealed at a later date.
Children’s author Sir Michael Morpurgo will join the seven Kanneh-Mason siblings for a new version of a piece by Daniel Kidane called The Carnival Of The Animals.
Other performers will include singer-songwriter Moses Sumney with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jules Buckley, and jazz saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia.
Mr Pickard said one of the major themes would be celebrating British music, musicians and ensembles.
“Normally we’d probably have 10 or 12 touring orchestras in the Proms, this year we have just one,” he said.
“We knew very early on that international travel would be challenging and we thought we would turn that to our advantage and say, ‘Let’s really celebrate these incredible musicians we have in the UK’.
“We’re an international festival and we’ve just been reminding ourselves, as an international festival, that we also have what is called international artists in the UK.
“And they’re called Simon Rattle, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Nicola Benedetti, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
“We have so much talent over here. It’s also every musician in every country has been through such a difficult time over the last year. We wanted to give as many opportunities as we could to those artists, to really be a part of the festival and have something to celebrate this summer.”
The Proms run from 30 July to 11 September 2021.