Things to do in London: The Proms series of 74 classical music concerts

By John Walton, June 28 2011
Things to do in London: The Proms series of 74 classical music concerts

If you're on a business trip to London this summer, the BBC's beloved series of classical music concerts -- the Proms -- run from 15 July to 10 September this year in the spectacular Royal Albert Hall. 

The series comprise concerts called "Proms", short for "Promenades", since standing tickets for £5 (around A$7.50) are available.

With 74 proms of choral, chamber, orchestral, solo and world music, it's one of the most quintessentially British of music festivals.

Most evening proms start between 7 and 7.30, with a second prom on some nights starting at around 10. Weekends are filled with a matinee prom around lunchtime, often another at 4pm or so, one around 7 and a late prom near 10pm.

The easiest way to get to a concert is to turn up at the Royal Albert Hall for a £5 standing ticket and join the queue that snakes out the back and down the road. This is "Promming", is typically British and involves an intricate queueing system, which the BBC describes in helpful detail.

But if you're going alone, you're likely to be able to pick up a single seated ticket from the box office at door 12, even if the prom is listed as sold out. That's generally a better plan if you've been working all day and don't fancy standing for the concert.

There are also weekend passes, which get you standing tickets into all proms, if you're feeling more relaxed.

As a frequent Prom-goer when in London, I particularly enjoy the 10pm concerts, where you can have a leisurely dinner after work, change into something comfortable, and almost always get a ticket close to the date. (Swanky box seat tickets for the late night concerts are generally very reasonably priced too.)

Australian Business Traveller recommends...

Tue 19 July: Schubert String Quintet -- an early late night concert from the superb Belcea Quartet plus Valentin Erben.

Sun 24 July: Verdi Requiem -- currently sold out, but check for returns or Prom

Sun 31 July: Rachmaninov songs -- includes the chorus of the St Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre

Thu 4 August: Tallis Scholars -- one of the late night concerts, this promises to be an early music gem.

Sat 13 August: Comedy Prom -- hosted by Aussie musical comedian Tim Minchin.

Sun 21 August: Richard Hickox memorial concert -- including Mozart's Requiem and a world premiere from British composer Colin Matthews, this concert is in honour of former Opera Australia director Richard Hickox.

Sun 28 August: Mendelssohn Elijah -- with a young set of choirs and top notch soloists including Simon Keenlyside and Sarah Connolly.

Sat 10 September: Last Night of the Proms -- while tickets will be nigh on impossible to get, consider tuning in on TV to this most high-spiritedly British (or, depending on your point of view, ridiculously jingoistic) of concerts, featuring Chinese pianist Lang Lang and fabulous opera star Susan Bullock singing Brunnhilde's Immolation Scene from Wagner's Götterdämmerung.

But for the full list of Prom concerts, head over to the BBC's Proms website. Many Proms are also broadcast online.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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