The BBC will stage orchestral versions of ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ at this year’s Last Night Of The Proms following reports that it was considering their removal.
Producers were reportedly in discussions about scrapping the two British anthems from the setlist because of the song’s perceived associations with colonialism and slavery [via The Sunday Times].
But Sky News today (August 24) confirmed that the BBC will include the anthems for its annual live concert series, which will run this year at London’s Royal Albert Hall without an audience due to coronavirus pandemic. Lyrics for both songs will not be sung, however, and orchestral-only versions will be performed instead.
A spokesperson confirmed to Sky News that, with “much reduced musical forces”, the Proms will “curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as Jerusalem and the national anthem”, including performances from soprano Golda Schultz and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ will be added to the programme for the purposes of “capturing the mood of this unique time”, the spokesperson added.
The news comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman intervened in the row to argue that songs should not be removed from the event. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden agreed, and Tweeted that he had raised concerns with the BBC.
Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory are highlights of the Last Night of the Proms
Share concerns of many about their potential removal and have raised this with @BBC
Confident forward-looking nations don’t erase their history, they add to it
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) August 24, 2020
The discussion comes in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been heightened in recent months following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed in Minneapolis in May after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Dalia Stasevska, who is conducting this year’s Last Night Of The Proms, is keen to modernise the evening’s repertoire and reduce the patriotic elements. “Dalia is a big supporter of Black Lives Matter and thinks a ceremony without an audience is the perfect moment to bring change,” a BBC source told The Sunday Times.
The concert is due to take place on September 12 without an audience.