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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Proms season strikes first notes
Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin once again conducts at the Proms
The world renowned Proms festival began on Friday at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The first night of the 110th season opened with music by Bach, Elgar and Holst's The Planets.

Chief conductor Leonard Slatkin said the annual eight-week event displayed "magic... night in, night out".

As well as the 6,000 audience members in the Royal Albert Hall, the concerts will also be relayed on giant screens in London's Hyde Park.

The first night featured the return of the UK's biggest organ after a three-year 1.7m restoration project.

Organist Martin Neary sounded the first note at the Proms as he launched in to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Eastern influence

Martin Neary with the organ at the Royal Albert Hall
Martin Neary plays the organ at this year's Proms

One of the themes for this year's Proms is the influence of Chinese and eastern cultures on Western music.

Cellist Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble will be among the special guests during the event.

There will also be a celebration of English music, under the title England at the Crossroads, marking 1934 - the year composers Edward Elgar died and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was born.

The festival runs until 11 September, when the Royal Albert Hall will once again ring out to the sounds of the traditional Last Night of the Proms.

"There is nothing like this festival. I think if you take any musician that walks on to that stage, they will tell they look forward for a whole year to coming here," Mr Slatkin told BBC One's Breakfast.

"It's the best audience in the world and the widest listening and viewing public. There really is a magic that happens here night in, night out."

The Nation's Favourite event on Saturday will feature the William Tell Overture, made famous by the Lone Ranger TV show, which was chosen by public vote.

The BBC's David Sillito
"It has been described as the voice of Jupiter but after 130 years the organ was showing its age"

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