The Prom on August 26 was presented by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and their conductor, Nicholas Collon, joined by violinist Pekka Kuusisto. The program opened with La Mer by Debussy, which was given an extremely shaped and nuanced and always beautiful sounding performance. It was followed by Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending in a very beautiful and thoughtful and very quiet and moving performance featuring Kuusisto. The Vaughan Williams and Märchentänze by Thomas Adès made a very interesting and thought provoking paring. The Vaughan Williams, written just before the first world war, was one of his first works to deal with his interest in English folksong. It incorporated the essence of his experience of folk music into the substance of the piece, not quoting any particular folksongs but having the sense of that music permeate the whole of the work. The Adès, which was written in 2020 for violin and piano and was orchestrated a year later, and was receiving its first UK performances, quotes quite a few particular folksongs explicitly, and deals with them as found material which can be used and manipulated but whose substance is not part of the essential character and concerns of the music, and is always held at an emotional distance, always quotation, always ironic. The work is always expertly, to say the least, realized and brilliantly orchestrated and always engaging and entertaining. The performance was on an equally expert and compelling level. Both of those performances–the Vaughan Williams and the Adès–were completely true to the character and intent of the music. The concert concluded with a completely spellbinding performance of the Sibelius Fifth Symphony.

The Prom on August 30 was an single hour-long work, This New Noise, by Public Service Broadcasting, (actually the program credited J. Willgoose, Esq. as the composer and JF Abraham as the arranger) a London-based musical group, described in the program as being ‘indie-rock,’ whose four members are known by their stage names: J. Willgoose, Esq, Wrigglesworth, J F Abraham, and Mr.B, assisted by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley. Public Service Broadcasting incorporates archival recordings, news and otherwise, visual clips, and their own original music, which is somewhat poppy and repetitive, in their work, which might be considered collage-like. Their works, including their debut ‘album’ Inform– Educate– Entertain, The Race for Space (marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing), and Every Valley (on the rise and fall of the Welsh coal-mining industry), have won prizes, including the Progressive Music Awards, and have developed a large and enthusiastic following, at least judging from the completely packed out Albert Hall.

This New Noise, a BBC commission, receiving its first performance, was a celebration of the centennial of the BBC, and consisted of eight sections: Ripples in the Ether (Towards the Infinite, This New Noise, An Unusual Man, A Cello Sings in Daventry, Broadcasting House, The Microphone (The Fleet is Lit Up), A Candle Which Will Not Be Put Out, and What of the Future?. There was little, if any, manipulation of the archival recordings (in some of there other work, which I looked into later, there was some manipulation); sometimes the music underscored, as it were, moments in those clips and sometime it simply provided an underlay. The archival visual elements were also presented more or less intact. None of the sections actually ended; they just stopped. After a while this became a little irritating, but it made one very aware that there was really no shaping at all to any of the piece, the music didn’t at all provide this, is simply went on, usually very repetitively.

The whole work was intended as a celebration of the BBC and a warning not to let it go away. There was a very powerful statement by Wilgoose in the program: “It is, in my view, a simple and unarguable fact that if the BBC continues to be whittled away–potentially until it expires–there will be many areas it covers, and functions it provides, that will simply cease to be. No private organization, motivated by profit alone {he had previously quoted a statement by James Murdock at the Edinburgh International Television Festival of 2009: ‘The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit.’}, would fund the BBC Proms season; nor Radio 3, nor 4, nor 6 Music (without whose patronage our band wouldn’t exist); nor the BBC orchestras (including the one performing so skillfully tonight); nor any of the multiple commercially unappealing but culturally vital services the BBC provided to us on a daily basis for what–when compared with other much lauded delivery systems–amounts to a pittance. It will leave a vacuum, a void; there will be no more ripples in the ether, no more public-minded attempts to improve the education and experience (and cohesion) of this country. There will simply be an empty stage, and perhaps the scale of the BBC’s influence and importance will only be truly felt if it does disappear.” The end of the whole evening acted out, in farewell symphony manner, the prophecy of the empty stage. It was possibly the most effective moment of the piece. Nothing else came up to that, and none of it equaled the power of Wilgoose’s prose.

The Proms on August 22 was billed as Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul. It commemorated the eightieth anniversary of Franklin’s birth, and her death four years ago, and featured Sheléa, along with a group billed as Gospel choir, led by Vula Malinga, none of whose members were named, and the apparently newly formed Jules Buckley Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley. The evening included seventeen songs representing just about every facet of Aretha’s career and repertory. Sheléa was personable hostess for the show, as well as being a formidable singer, who was certainly up to the task of evoking Franklin’s presence through her songs. During the second half of the concert, when Sheléa was making her third costume change, the Gospel choir performed Spanish Harlem and Day Dreaming and the individual singers, uncredited, proved that they could claim and hold a stage as well. The whole evening was completely enjoyable. The object of the evening, of course, was to evoke Aretha by covering her songs in her manner. One of her great talents was to cover songs by other singers and to so make them her own and they were at least as powerful and memorable as the originals, sometimes better. Even though it’s something of an aside and unnecessary I am adding here a list of what I think are the very best Aretha covers, in order: Long and Winding Road (, The Tracks of My Tears (, Oh Me Oh My (, The Border Song (, Brand New Me (, I Say a Little Prayer for You (, April Fools (

All three of these concerts are available on the BBC Sounds website (, as are the concerts I wrote about earlier. In fact, every Prom is there, and available for quite a long time.