Removing the lyrics to our traditional, patriotic songs is a shameful capitulation
BY MOLLY GILES
The BBC has capitulated to the argument that the words of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Brittania are laden with colonial overtones and should be abandoned. Instead, orchestral-only versions will be played. The BBC’s continued politicisation of the Proms is deeply ignorant – something which became increasingly difficult to ignore with the draping of EU and LGBT flags over the stage in previous years.
I have played in orchestras and have sung choirs my whole life. I am also a highly political person and current affairs is topic of conversation I naturally gravitate towards. However, never the twain have met. It is not a coincidence. There is an instinct amongst all its participants that to engage in discussion about the state of the nation unnecessarily pollutes an activity which is designed to lift us out of our present condition.
The beauty of music (and sport) is that it allows to us escape cynicism, division, difference and conflict. Music inherently transcends trivial, transient, earthly concerns and is created by humans to transport us into ethereal and heavenly realms.
Most importantly, music allows us to escape ourselves. In a narcissistic world, music is emotionally nourishing because it is a break from the relentless encouragement to focus on how one is being viewed by others.
Participation in music allows us to fall even deeper into that spectacular escape. Perhaps strangely as a performer of music I’ve always considered it something of a selfish pursuit given the knowledge that you are experiencing a level of intensity that a mere listener cannot reach.
This is why the BBC’s decision is so shameful and despicable. Opportunities for the average person to participate in music (and particularly classical music which I would argue can generate particularly unique feelings) are few and far between. Communal singing has a special quality in that you need no real talent to participate – the cover of the group allows people of all musical talent and none to come together.
Much of our music making historically was in service to its audience in the sense that it was an accompaniment to dancing, singing or prayer but over time classical music has been increasingly ‘done to’ its passive audience. The whole purpose of the Last Night of the Proms is to reverse this trend and to encourage the ‘bobbing’, the horn-tooting, the flag-waving and the singing. And so, the BBC have managed to butcher the Last Night two fold. Firstly by effectively excising one of the most popular and familiar parts but also by destroying the very elements which allow the audience to actively participate and become at one with the performers; all in the name of ‘inclusivity’.
Molly Giles is a Barrister and Conservative Commentator. Follow her on twitter: @mollygiles2015