Ask the Director
Message from Roger Wright
This Q&A section allows you to ask questions and give feedback as the festival unfolds.
Welcome to the 2013 BBC Proms. I hope you enjoy the concerts and events, however you experience them, in person or on radio, TV or online.
In recent years I have very much enjoyed answering your questions about any aspect of the BBC Proms. I will again be on hand to answer your questions once the season gets underway from 12 July.
You can also refer to these frequently asked questions: Going to a Prom FAQs.
For all your unanswered questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject 'Ask the Director' to submit a question from the start of the season. I look forward to hearing from you.
Questions from 2012 Proms Season
- Subject: Jon Lord
- Are there any plans to honour Jon Lord?
If not this year there should be a Prom for Jon next year. Don't you agree?
Sorry Mick. We have no plans to include music by Jon Lord. He was a very important musician but most of our plans for 2013 are complete now and there is always more music around than we are able to include.
- Subject: My Fair Lady
- My husband and I attended Prom no.2 ‘My fair lady’ on Saturday. It was an outstanding evening with the actors, singers and the John Wilson Orchestra.
Our only disappointment was that the evening was not televised. Are there any plans for a tour? It’s such a shame that such an excellent performance with all the hard work involved only warrants one show.
Thank you for your attention.
We did listen to it last night and would love to watch it.
Yvonne and John Howes
A further very disappointing fact is that the Proms of John Wilson are not available on DVD. Why not so we can further enjoy them on DVD? Other programmes are available widely such as Wallender but not something that brings great pleasure.
There is a widespread view that the severe classical forum in the Proms and BBC is jealous of the success of John Wilson and this is the reason only one DVD has been issued since 2009. i.e. Classical MGM Film Musicals. This we play and enjoy regularly.
Mr and Mrs D. Cave
It was, therefore, as I say, very disappointing that you chose not to televise it. Many of the proms that are televised do not need to be seen - purely shots of a orchestra playing etc and there are perfectly good opportunities to listen on BBC3.
But 'My Fair Lady' surely deserved to be seen by a wider audience? My wife and I used to go to the Proms regularly, but are now of an age where to travel to London etc is not possible. We must be among a host of people disappointed by your decision not to televise.
- Subject: Diversity of performers
- I watched the first night of the proms last night and it was a wonderful concert. However there was one thing which concerned me greatly. There was not a single black or brown face in the orchestra. The same was true of the very large choir apart from one man.
This is a disgraceful situation and I would like you to advise me what steps you are taking to rectify this.
- Subject: Classical symphonies
- I know you can't include everything in 8 weeks, but there's no Mozart symphony two years running, only 1 by Haydn, & 1 by Schubert this year. It does seem that the Viennese classical repertoire (Beethoven excepted) is being overlooked these days, which is a pity. I remember some great performances of these works in the past at the Proms, it's a shame today's audiences are denied that opportunity.
Hi Chris. The whole question of developing taste in programming is fascinating. Despite my encouragement, conductors are often not keen to include these works in the Royal Albert Hall. My predecessor Sir Nicholas Kenyon wrote a very interesting article recently in the Guardian about this matter. Here’s the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/26/proms-richer-mozart-symphonies
- Subject: Beethoven/Boulez Proms
- The Beethoven Symphonies cycle under Daniel Barenboim has been an absolute triumph. My wife and I were unable to get to London this year, but have thoroughly enjoyed watching them on television.
I have two questions:
Having attended many Proms concerts, the atmosphere in the hall is always electric. Would it be possible on the television coverage, to not end the programme so quickly during the applause, so that some of this can be experienced at home?
Are there any plans to release the Beethoven cycle as a set of DVDs? If so, do feel free to leave out the Pierre Boulez!
We are now looking forward to many more enjoyable concerts during the remainder of the season.
I realise that to some it doesn’t make good radio, but if you have listened to very good music, the applause can echo what the listener as well as the audience who are present may feel. There is always the possibility of an encore being missed as well.
Could I make the plea, that even if this is not offered on the radio that consideration might be given to offering it still on line?
Nicholas and Andrew, I know that my radio and TV colleagues try to strike a balance about length of applause before presentation but they will never get it right for everybody. It remains a subject of ongoing discussion in our production teams.
I think most of the audience would share my view but would be too polite to say so or show their non appreciation.
This goes for most other first performances as well as much of so called modern art
This is a serious issue please don’t ignore it.
- Subject: Filming for TV
- I am emailing you on behalf of my father who has really enjoyed your Beethoven Symphonies over the weekend. My father was impressed by the way that the cameras managed to give close-up shots of the prominent instruments. Do you direct to a score with the instruments picked out and so prompt the camera operators? If so who does the preparation and marking up?
Having worked for the BBC and built television OB vehicles some time ago I would also be interested to know how many cameras you use and whether you use any modern remotely controlled mountings to achieve specific shots.
- Subject: Programming
- Any chance of a Prom which focuses on a composer's career. The reasons why he wrote, that song, that symphony, what mood he was in, the economic, political environment of the time. It always seems a bit disjointed just to play a symphony with no explanation of the background, nor no interaction with the audience to explain the backstory of a symphony.
Andrew, I think BBC Radio 3 is just what you want! With our downloadable Proms Guides and our concert presentation and programmes like Composer of the Week you will have all sorts of background material and context to enhance your listening.
- Subject: Applause
- Please can anything be done about stopping the applause between movements of either a concerto or symphony, by either printing a note in the programmes or an announcement being made before the concerts. I find it extremely irritating and in a way, I feel it is discourteous and even an irritation to the performers.I was sitting in the choir, both last Wednesday and yesterday evening, and I felt the conductors were far from happy with this applause, particularly last night in the Tchaikovsky, Symphony. I noted that the conductor held his hand out after the third movement, and even at the end somebody in the audience could not wait to applaud until the conductor indicated he was ready for the applause.
- Subject: Amateur Composers
- Have you considered dedicating an afternoon of the Proms to music written by amateur composers?
I am pleased to see that a number of emerging young composers have been included in the Proms line-up this year. I myself write music as a hobby, but I have not studied at a university or music academy of any kind; however I like to think I have some talent when it comes to writing music. I was wondering if there is any chance of amateurs like me having their music performed at the BBC Proms in years to come. After all, let's not forget that one of Britain's greatest composers, Elgar, was an autodidact, and I'm sure I've heard a tune or two of his played at the Proms before. I believe such an event would generate a decent amount of public interest as many people seem to enjoy listening to music created by living composers. It would offer the audience something new and different from the current standard repertoire, and may even help to attract future generations of concert goers to the festival. Plus the possibility of uncovering hidden talent in the world of classical music will surely add to the popularity and already prestigious reputation of the Proms. I believe the Proms to be an ideal platform for such an event.
I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter.
- Subject: HD Sound
- The BBC HD channel transmission of the Proms is consistently stunning, especially with the 5.1 surround sound audio feed. The Albert Hall has never sounded so good!
So why has the BBC kept so quiet about this? There is no sign of BBC HD mentioned in any of the "Proms on television" pages, and I cannot find any listing of which Proms are to be found in HD/Surround in the BBC website. I have not even discovered anyone else who knows about the surround feature of the Proms in HD.
It has to be left to chance and searching through my television's EPG to come across these broadcasting gems.
You really are leading the world with these transmissions, so why not make a lot more publicity for it?
I must confess an interest, I was the European Support Engineer for DTS (an audio surround system) and carried out much early surround work with the BBC at Maida Vale and TVC, which is why I enjoy it so much and want others to as well!
Thanks Rod. I’m thrilled that you enjoy the new HD sound offer. We have not wanted to hide this information and have put out press releases about the HD sound and the 3D Last Night. Of course we have no control over what gets disseminated more widely so it is good that you have raised the matter in your question. I will talk to my TV colleagues and see if any additional mention can be made of this feature in presentation.