Today marks the start of one of the World’s biggest Classical music festivals. The BBC Proms begins with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall featuring Sally Matthews (soprano,) Roderick Williams (baritone,) Stephen Hough (piano,) BBC Proms Youth Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (conductor) in a performances of Julian Anderson – Harmony (BBC Commission, World Premiere,) Britten – Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes,’ Rachmaninov – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Lutosławski – Variations on a Theme by Paganini and Vaughan Williams – A Sea Symphony.
This year the Proms will be broadcast to classical music enthusiasts all over the world. Many of the concerts and performances will be recorded and made available for purchase. It’s hard to imagine now but just 126 years ago a piece of music could only be heard when the audience was present, and as such was only available to those who could afford a ticket to see the best performers. At the end of the 19th century the Gramophone Company revolutionised this idea, making audio recordings available across the globe.
Tonight’s opening show which will be available via radio, TV or at the Royal Albert Hall itself is built upon the 126 year old legacy of Emile Berliner (inventor of the Gramophone) and the early Gramophone Company founders. But for now relax and enjoy this clip of the God Father of the Proms Sir Henry Wood.
This is the fourth in a series of publicity shots from the early years of the recording business that our friends at the EMI Archive Trust have made available to us. This photo is of Madame Kirkby-Lunn (known to her friends as Louise) who was a Mancunian contralto who lived between 1873 and 1930. This picture was taken of her in 1909 when she was recording for The Gramophone Company and playing Dalila (or Delilah as Tom Jones might have said) in Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Dalila at Covent Garden.
Unusually for an English person, Louise spoke 4 languages and sang fluently in each. Even more unusually, for an Opera singer of the era, she retained a Northern English accent throughout her life. An interesting fact about Louise was that she performed in the very first Proms put on by Henry Wood in 1895.
As for Louise’s efforts at PR, we give her a 6 out of 10 for this photo. Although she is dressed well and shows willing – and exhibits excellent technique with the net curtains – her eyes betray her discomfort with the whole sordid affair.
This is her singing in the first decade of the twentieth century, a couple of years before the photo was taken.