Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo brought the 120th season of the United Kingdom’s BBC Proms festival of classical music to a close in London on Saturday with a plea for children around the world not to lose out on the opportunity to hear and learn music.
“Music is so many things. It is mathematics. It is science… It is history. It is culture. It is physical education. Music is therapy for those who need it,” Oramo told the flag-waving crowd of over 5,000 at the Last Night of the Proms.
He called for “children to have continued opportunities to be exposed to good and great classical music,” lamenting the fact that in economic hard times “resources tend to go elsewhere.”
He spoke after conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra through an eclectic evening of music ranging from Strauss and Ravel to an arrangement of “Ol’ Man River” and an audience singalong of a Mary Poppins medley.
At the same time as the concert in the Royal Albert Hall, the BBC hosted open-air “Proms in the Park” events in central London’s Hyde Park as well as in Swansea in Wales, Belfast in Northern Ireland and Glasgow in Scotland.
A number of politicians and others had called for these concerts to be used as a celebration of Britishness ahead of Scotland’s referendum on Thursday, seen as too close to call, on whether to end its 300-year union with the rest of the United Kingdom.
But local papers reported that the BBC asked its performers and presenters to make no reference to the referendum to avoid accusations of bias.
There was nevertheless a certain irony to one of the evening’s pieces: a rare performance of Richard Strauss’s choral work “Taillefer” – sung in German, about the French conquering the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
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