Britannia rules the airwaves! Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia are sung by a choir at the Last Night of the Proms after furious backlash over lyrics being pulled due to ‘colonial ties’
- The BBC made U-turn to include British anthems at Royal Albert Hall concert following weeks of controversy
- Reduced orchestra of 65 rather than the usual 300 performed live at the venue without an audience tonight
- Run-up to the Last Night saw musicians and Boris Johnson weigh into the debate over the controversial lyrics
Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia! were tonight sung by a choir at the Last Night of the Proms following furious backlash over lyrics being pulled due to ‘colonial ties.’
The BBC previously said the controversial pieces would be performed without lyrics at the Royal Albert Hall in London but made a dramatic U-turn following a heated debate over the decision.
A reduced orchestra of 65 rather than the usual 300 performed live at the venue – but without an audience due to coronavirus restrictions – with the singers placed in the stalls to ensure social distancing.
The highly anticipated concert featured South African soprano Golda Schultz with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under its principal guest conductor Dalia Stasevska.
Violinist Nicola Benedetti stepped in to perform during The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams after Lisa Batiashvili pulled out due to illness.
Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia! were tonight sung by a choir at the Last Night of the Proms following furious backlash over lyrics being pulled due to ‘colonial ties’
The BBC made a dramatic U-turn so the traditional British anthems could be performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London despite weeks of controversy over their inclusion
Introducing the show, host Katie Derham said: ‘Our orchestra, singers and some very special guests are standing by for an evening of classical treats, show songs and all your traditional favourites.’
The show was screened in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea to a socially distanced audience of hundreds.
The original plan would have seen the traditional pieces, seen by some as controversial because of their perceived ties to imperialism, performed without lyrics.
But a decision was made to include lyrics performed by a ‘select group of BBC singers’ after the MailOnline petitioned for the songs to be included.
Some of the lyrics deemed controversial in the songs include the Rule, Britannia! lines: ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’, and: ‘The nations, not so blest as thee / Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall / While thou shalt flourish great and free: The dread and envy of them all.’
Ms Stasevska, the conductor, spoke out amid the controversy to say she played no role in the decision to strip the pieces of lyrics.
Musicians performed live at the venue, but without a live audience due to restrictions in place amid the coronavirus pandemic
The run-up to the Last Night saw musicians, media industry figures and even Prime Minister Boris Johnson weigh in to the debate over the pieces.
The BBC Proms later said that ‘both pieces will now include a select group of BBC singers. This means the words will be sung in the hall, and as we have always made clear, audiences will be free to sing along at home.
‘While it can’t be a full choir, and we are unable to have audiences in the hall, we are doing everything possible to make it special and want a Last Night truly to remember,’ the broadcaster added.
‘We hope everyone will welcome this solution. We think the night itself will be a very special moment for the country – and one that is much needed after a difficult period for everyone.’
Last month, a BBC insider criticised the corporation’s initial decision to play Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia without lyrics at the last Night of the Proms following a racism row.
A source told The Times the BBC’s handling of the programme at times felt like ‘white guys in a panic’ trying to appease the Black Lives Matter movement because of the songs’ apparent links to colonialism and slavery.
The BBC had initially agreed ‘new orchestral versions’ of the hugely popular anthems would feature in the rousing finale of its concert tonight, before agreeing a ‘select group of BBC singers’ would provide vocals.