Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia! will now be sung at Proms

The BBC today revealed Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia! will both be sung by a group at the Last Night of the Proms in ten days' time in a remarkable U-turn following a huge backlash from the British public.

More than 100,000 people signed MailOnline's petition urging the BBC to overturn the hugely controversial decision to have no singing during the songs at the Royal Albert Hall in West London on September 12.

The broadcaster had announced on Monday last week that the anthems would feature as 'new orchestral versions' in this year's concert, following concerns raised over their perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery. 

The shock change of mind marks the first major decision taken by Tim Davie who took over just yesterday as the BBC's new £450,000-a-year director-general and is clearly looking to stamp his mark on it as soon as possible.

Among the many vocal opponents of the initial move last week was Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who reacted to the news today by tweeting: 'Pleased to see common sense has prevailed on the BBC Proms.'

A BBC Proms spokesman said this afternoon: 'The pandemic means a different Proms this year and one of the consequences, under Covid-19 restrictions, is we are not able to bring together massed voices.  

Prommers wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in West London on September 8, 2012

Prommers wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in West London on September 8, 2012

Tim Davie approved the decision after taking over just yesterday as the BBC's new £450,000-a-year director-general

Tim Davie approved the decision after taking over just yesterday as the BBC's new £450,000-a-year director-general 

'For that reason we took the artistic decision not to sing Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory in the Hall. We have been looking hard at what else might be possible and we have a solution. 

'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. 

What is the history of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory? 

Rule, Britannia originates from the poem of the same name by Scottish poet and playwright James Thomson, and was set to music by English composer Thomas Arne in 1740.

It gained popularity in the UK after it was first played in London in 1745 and became symbolic of the British Empire, most closely associated with the British Navy.

The song has been used as part of a number of compositions, including Wagner's concert overture in D Major in 1837 and Beethoven's orchestral work, Wellington's Victory.

The song has been an integral part of the annual Remembrance Day ceremony since 1930, when it became the first song played in the programme known as The Traditional Music.

It regained popularity at the end of WWII in 1945 after it was played at the ceremonial surrender of the Japanese imperial army in Singapore.

Rule, Britannia is usually played annually during at the BBC's Last Night of the Proms.

But its inclusion has promoted controversy in recent years as it was deemed too patriotic.

The song 'Land of Hope and Glory' is based on the trio theme from Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1, which was originally premiered in 1901. 

It caught the attention of King Edward VII after it became the only piece in the history of the Proms to receive a double encore.

King Edward suggested that this trio would make a good song, and so Elgar worked it into the last section of his Coronation Ode, to be performed at King Edward's coronation.   

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'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. 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. It will not be a usual Last Night, but it will be a night not just to look forward to, but to remember.'

The decision comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused the BBC of 'wetness', demanding an end to 'self-recrimination' over the past and saying the corporation harboured a 'cringing embarrassment' about Britain's traditions.

Last week's compromise to have no singing in the songs, which followed the racism row, was drawn up after Mr Davie intervened before he took over from Tony Hall to insist both pieces were performed in some form. 

MPs from both parties and Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, had condemned this year's decision last week, before today's U-turn took place.

Amid outcry over the decision to drop the lyrics, a poll found 59 per cent said the BBC had got it wrong – rising to 80 per cent among over-65s. 

Mr Johnson also said last week that he was so passionate about the issue that his advisers had sought to 'restrain' his remarks.

Saying he could barely believe the BBC's decision, Mr Johnson added: 'It's time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general fight of self-recrimination and wetness, I wanted to get that off my chest.'

Before the U-turn, Mr Phillips had accused BBC bosses of being 'rooms full of white men panicking that someone is going to think they are racist'.

He had said: 'The real problem the corporation has is that it is always in a panic about race, and one of the reasons it is always in a panic is that it has no confidence.

'The principle reason it has no confidence ... is that there is no ethnic diversity at the top of its decision-making tree.'  

The row over this year's Proms began two weekends ago when it was first reported that Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory could be ditched entirely.

Critics have claimed the songs are inappropriate due to associations with colonialism and slavery. 

Audience members wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in West London on September 8, 2018

Audience members wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in West London on September 8, 2018

Jamie Barton waves a rainbow flag at the Last Night of the Proms in London last September while singing Rule, Britannia!

Jamie Barton waves a rainbow flag at the Last Night of the Proms in London last September while singing Rule, Britannia!

The lyrics to Rule, Britannia! include the line 'Britons never, never, never shall be slaves', while the 1902 words to Land of Hope and Glory were reputedly inspired by Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist and mining magnate whose statue is being removed from an Oxford college.

Finnish conductor, 35, backing BLM 'keen to limit patriotic elements' of Last Night of the Proms

Dalia Stasevska, who is conducting the Last Night

Dalia Stasevska, who is conducting the Last Night

Dalia Stasevska is preparing for the biggest night of her career on September 12 when she conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the Last Night of the Proms.

But away from music, the 35-year-old, who moved from her birthplace of Ukraine to Finland when she was aged just five, is known to be a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In June, as protests took place over the death of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ms Stasevska tweeted an image reading: 'I stand for equality. I stand against racism. I stand for love and compassion.'

In June, as protests took place over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ms Stasevska tweeted the above image

In June, as protests took place over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ms Stasevska tweeted the above image

She uses social media to campaign about race and gender equality, and last month encouraged followers to listen to a BBC Radio 3 debate about classical music and race.

Ms Stasevska is pictured with Mr Lordi, the lead vocalist in heavy metal band Lordi

Ms Stasevska is pictured with Mr Lordi, the lead

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