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‘If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain’.

To rephrase less eloquently, if people won’t go to concert halls bring the concert hall to them. Here in a snowy UK The Guerilla Orchestra plan to do just that.

On Friday December the 10th at 6pm orchestras will spontaneously appear in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff and Liverpool, perform Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible, pack up and leave. The venues will be shopping centres, squares, high streets, parks, wherever.

The aim isn’t just to confront ordinary folk with something mysterious and unfamiliar (an orchestra) but to protest against wide ranging cuts in music education in the UK (the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government have targeted virtually every public expense in attempt to reduce our somewhat paunchy deficit).

Guerilla-in-chief Heather Bird, an orchestral musician and teacher, studied at the Royal Northern College of Music. She’s concerned about how future generations will be able to afford a music degree without the government subsidies she benefited from. If the planned cuts go ahead university tuition fees are expected to rise from around £3000 ($4700) to between £6000-9000 ($9450-$14,200) per year and many local arts organisations and music outreach projects will lose their funding.

“What the axing of all funding to higher education arts institutes says is that art is not important. What we do is not valid. That music plays no valuable part in this society. Of course this is ludicrous. There is no incentive for kids to practice, put in the hard work and dedication if they have no possibility of paying tens of thousands of pounds to go to somewhere like the RNCM.

I went to the RNCM and there’s no way I would have been able to go if I’d had to pay such fees. I had free double bass lessons as a kid and would not have been able to play or attend the heavily subsidised Cumbria Youth Orchestra courses if I’d have had to pay for them. So I would not have been doing what I love today, or teaching kids to do the same.”

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Yes, it’s Proms season again here in the UK/GB (see link for the differences.) The “worlds greatest music festival” kicks off on Friday and I thought I would put together a vaguely ‘contemporary’ programme for those so inclined.

Included are composers who are still alive regardless of ‘style’, and a few 20th century composers I thought relevant (excuse my subjective and rather fuzzy criteria; Stravinsky and Bartók are included for instance, Debussy, Ravel and Shostakovich are not; feel free to berate me in the comments section.)

All the concerts listed will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be archived a week or so later on their website (for seven days only).  Also, the BBC normally broadcasts quite a few live on TV (usually on BBC 2); these will be archived on their ‘iPlayer‘ but unfortunately this is not accessible by those outside the UK (if you are not a native get your British friends to set their VCRs or whatever newfangled device people are using these days).

If you fancy making a personal appearance, most of the concerts will be on at the Royal Albert Hall in London with those from the ‘Proms Chamber Music’ series occurring at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea (listed below with the prefix ‘PCM’, Chelsea is also in London if you didn’t already know.) The festival runs from Friday the 17th of July to Saturday the 12th of September.

If you are visiting from outside the UK this might be a good year given how weak the pound is currently (against the US Dollar and the Euro at least.) To buy tickets and to check availability please visit the Royal Albert Hall’s tickets page.

Rather than list each Prom I thought composers in alphabetical order might be more helpful (taken from this page on the BBC site where you can access the full list, including Debussy, Ravel and Shostakovich et al), please click on the links to each piece to get more information about the specific concert.

A couple I am looking forward to are Prom 63 featuring two Xenakis pieces (Aïs and Nomos Gamma) and Prom 65 featuring Ligetis Atmospheres and Schoenbergs Five Orchestral Pieces (in it’s 100th year) conducted by Jonathan Nott. Also it will interesting to see/hear some of the pieces by younger composers I have never heard anything from before such as Anna Meredith, whose piece Left Light is premiered at Prom 32 and Ben Foskett whose From Trumpet has its first outing at Prom 24.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the list… [EDIT: I’ve now added a link to a Google calendar with the dates and details of all the Proms in the list plus a few more I think, thanks very much to Jamie Bullock for putting it together.]

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