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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Proms close the musical divide
The Proms
Organsiers want to make the Proms more accessible
The BBC's annual Proms season gets under way on Friday, with organisers promising a feast of innovation and new talent.

The annual music marathon, which lasts until 9 September, is known as one of the world's leading celebrations of classical music and established performers.


What we want to do, as we go into the next century, is make sure that the Proms is reinventing itself

Nicholas Kenyon, Proms director

This time, however - to mark the new millennium - the Proms is also championing new music, upcoming artists and the breaking down of barriers between musical genres.

Major players in this initiative include leading British Asian musician Nitin Sawhney, headlining an inaugural Youth Prom for fresh talent.

Top Cuban dance band Los Van Van will make a splash at an evening of cutting edge Cuban sounds.

And, for the first time, poetry has been granted a series of four Proms of its own.

Andrew Motion
Poet Laureate Andrew Motion headlines the first Poetry Proms

They include commissions from Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and acclaimed writer Simon Armitage.

But despite this emphasis on new trends, there is still the usual rich catalogue of well-known works.

Bach, Shostakovich, Weil and Sullivan are just some of the many master composers to be celebrated this season.

Reinvention

Organisers hope this year's Proms schedule will be particularly attractive to young people.

They also hope to encourage greater integration between the worlds of popular and traditional music.


Nitin Sawhney has made a career of blurring barriers in music and race

Proms director Nicholas Kenyon says: "We have 100 years of tradition behind us. But what we want to do, as we go into the next century, is make sure that the Proms is reinventing itself.

"You have to make a splash. You have to say: 'We are doing some very definite things to show we are looking after young people."

Offering special Proms Explorer ticket packages to under-16s at a reduced cost is a starting point to get the young through the doors of the Royal Albert Hall.

More important are the concerts reflecting the way new talent is adapting traditional sounds for a contemporary audience.

The Youth Prom, Scry - meaning to foretell the future using a crystal ball - on 18 July is at the forefront of this Proms innovation.

It features three specially commissioned pieces from young composers for a young group to perform.

Urban Prophecies from award-winning Nitin Sawhney will be one of the pieces to be performed.


Gary Carpenter hopes Scry will help change the face of classical music

Sawhney's eclectic style combines Indian classical with Western classical music and incorporates many contemporary sounds and technologies.

His piece has been chosen to contrast with - and complement - the mystical sound of Cloudspell Seasons by Peter McGarr and Earth and Sky by Alec Roth.

Gary Carpenter, who wrote the prologue, interlude and finale to the Scry concert says:

"The term classical has been smeared. It didn't have any sort of patina to it when I was a kid. Hopefully this concert will make a difference.

"It is not a middle of the road venture. All of the music showcased is pretty tough and down-the-line.

"It extends the technical abilities of the young performers and illustrates the range and breadth of music being generated at the moment."

Multi-cultural

In the same vein, the Cuban evening on 3 August will show how innovation extends across cultures and genres.

Vocal Sampling open the concert using only their voices and hands to create the effect of a 20-piece Cuban salsa band.

Los Van Van take the stage for the second half of the evening.

Los Van Van
Los Van Van are credited with regenerating the popularity of Latin music

Famous for their experimentation in percussion and electric guitar, they are regarded as one of the most influential Latin dance band in decades.

Elsewhere on the Proms menu, there is a Millennium Youth Day on 12 August.

It will feature all the national youth and children's orchestras in a two-day celebration of jazz, brass and choral work.

Noted for its patronage of new music, the Proms presents a record 15 BBC commissions this season, with a further 13 world, UK or London premieres.

Other Proms highlights include a series of concerts devoted to Christian music, under the theme God and Music, in celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.

Most of this year's concerts will come from London's Royal Albert Hall, with performances broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The four Poetry Proms, however, will be held at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.

Also in Hyde Park will be the now popular Proms In the Park event, to be mirrored by concerts in Liverpool and Birmingham.

Overall, 10 concerts will go out on BBC One and BBC Two, including the legendary flag-waving last night.

Proms coverage starts at 1930 BST on Friday on Radio 3 - click here to hear live coverage of this and every Prom.

See also:

06 May 00 | Entertainment
Church wins Classical Brit award
13 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Government rattles Sir Simon
17 Jul 98 | Entertainment
FAQs: The Proms
09 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Angel in the park
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