Proms to welcome back audiences and Rule, Britannia! to the Royal Albert Hall

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 1:56 pm
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:13 am

The Proms will be a “curtain-raiser” for normality when the concert series returns to the Royal Albert Hall with a programme celebrating British musicians, its director has said.

The festival will open on 30 July with Vaughan Williams' Serenade To Music, described as "a love song to music and musicians" after a year of lockdown.

The Last Night will also see Rule, Britannia! sung in full, after a row over plans to omit the lyrics in 2020.

‘Going to be a curtain-raiser’ for normality

The 2020 edition featured a reduced orchestra playing to an empty auditorium due to coronavirus restrictions – with the singers placed in the stalls to ensure social distancing.

This year’s event, however, will feature an audience and mark the 150th anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall and 80 years since the famous venue became home to the Proms.

Director of the Proms David Pickard told the PA news agency it would be a “very moving moment” when the “first notes sound” at the start of the season.

He added: “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.

“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.”

Organisers hope social distancing rules will allow the Proms to play to a full house but are ready to host reduced audiences if required.

Both established and emerging British talent will be celebrated, including violinist Nicola Benedetti, vocalist Karen Cargill, conductors Sir Mark Elder and Sir Simon Rattle, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice and veteran conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner in his 60th Proms appearance.

More than 50 musicians will also make their Proms debuts, including Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Vikingur Olafsson and Abel Selaocoe.

For the first time, there will be four unprogrammed mystery Proms to be revealed at a later date, allowing the festival to respond to changing conditions.

The seven Kanneh-Mason siblings will be joined by author Sir Michael Morpurgo for an updated version of The Carnival Of The Animals and a companion piece by Daniel Kidane.

To mark 50 years since the death of Igor Stravinsky, the Aurora Orchestra will perform the 1945 suite from The Firebird from memory, whilst Sir Simon will lead the London Symphony Orchestra in an all-Stravinsky programme.

Touring orchestras have taken a cutback due to the challenges of international travel, with one act coming, instead of the usual ten to 12.

The Proms run from July 30 to September 11 2021.