BBC Proms in the Park: a British Institution

As the annual prom season came to an end, 40,000 people clad in red, white and blue gathered in London’s Hyde Park for a star-studded 19th BBC Proms in the Park on Saturday, September 12th. The event, hosted by Radio 2 legends Tony Blackburn, Sir Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce, showcased a fantastic array of performers from every corner of the globe, and every genre possible.

On hand to warm up the crowd for the early evening entertainment was BBC radio stalwart, Tony Blackburn. Fitting in two impressive costume changes- with a blazer and bomber jacket both adorned with the Union Jack making an appearance- he introduced the stellar acts that would start the proceedings.

“Hello Hyde Park”

Image: BBC/Sarah Jeynes

Eclectic American band The Mavericks were the perfect group to open the concert. In their signature Latin-Rockabilly style and led by frontman Raul Malo, they performed hits including ‘Message to You, Rudy’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Guantanamera’ and, of course, the 1997 smash record ‘Dance the Night Away’. The stars are very much still on top form, having released album Mono earlier this year.

Fresh from a matinee performance at the Shaftesbury theatre, the stars of Memphis: The Musical had the prom-goers twisting across the park as they sang musical numbers including ‘The Music of my Soul’ and ‘Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll’. The show features pop sensations Beverley Knight and Matt Cardle; their smooth vocals excited the audience as they brought the West End to Hyde Park.

This year’s band to watch was Jack Pack, who are releasing their debut album after appearing on Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. The suave quartet, made up of Sean Ryder Wolf, Alfie Palmer, Andrew Bourn and Martin McCafferty treated the crowd to swing and soul classics such as ‘Mack the Knife’, ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head’, ‘Stay With Me Baby’ and ‘My Way’. These classic hits are not usually given much attention in the twenty-first century; Jack Pack deserve a tip of the fedora hat for bringing swing back.

Image: BBC/Sarah Jeynes


As the sun set on Westminster, Sir Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce took the reins from Tony Blackburn and introduced the Main Concert.

Part One of the main event featured some truly stellar artists. Backed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, Dutch songstress Caro Emerald was the jewel in the prom’s crown as she performed jazzy numbers ‘Liquid Lunch’, ‘Helicopter Boy’ and ‘A Night Like This’. 

Old Classics

Taking inspiration from the Last Night of the Proms across the road at the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park welcomed a selection of classical artists. Trumpeter Alison Balsom and Australian soprano Danielle de Niese performed numbers from Vivaldi and Gershwin, and Handel and Augustin Lara, respectively.

Tenor Russell Watson was next to take to the stage, with hosts Ken and Sir Terry joking that he had cut short his honeymoon to attend the Proms. If that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is. Russell had the crowd captivated with the Migliacci/Modungo classic ‘Volare’ and ‘O sole mio’ by di Capua. As if that wasn’t spine-tingling enough, he finished with a stunning rendition of the Claude-Michel Schönberg number ‘Bring Him Home’ from the musical Les Misérables.

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Ain’t No Party Like A Jackson Party

As an outstanding Part One came to a close, pop legends The Jacksons burst onto the stage. The ‘first musical family’ have enjoyed a career spanning over 50 years, and have produced an array of smash hits. A truly incredible set saw them joined by the BBC Concert Orchestra, led by conductor Richard Balcombe.

As Sir Terry introduced them, a throwback montage played on the screen behind them- documenting their rise to fame from schoolboys in Gary, Indiana, to worldwide superstars. Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Jackie kicked off with ‘Can You Feel It’ and grooved their way through hits including ‘Blame it the Boogie’, ‘I’ll Be There’, and ‘Gone Too Soon’. The brothers roused the audience by exclaiming, “Are we having a Jackson party?” The crowd pleasers acknowledged that the British people “want the early stuff”, and treated us to a medley of ‘I Want You Back/ABC/The Love You Save’.

Like the true professionals they are, The Jacksons belted exciting disco numbers followed by emotional soul ballads.

An especially poignant moment in their set saw lead singer Marlon pay tribute to their younger brother Michael, who was with them “in spirit”.

After a set filled with several of some of their instantly recognisable songs, 40,000 people were left with goose bumps at the sheer electric performance we had witnessed.

Rule, Britannia!

As is traditional on the Last Night of the Proms, there was a video link-up with the Royal Albert Hall. After an audience participation rendition of Copland’s ‘I Bought Me A Cat’, the attention turned once again to stunning soprano Danielle de Niese. Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music is 50 years old, and the BBC had commissioned a new singalong, led by de Niese.

The devotion to all things British continued with the anthemic ‘Rule, Britannia!’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

As the evening came to a climatic end, you could not help but be filled with pride as Hyde Park and the Hall were united to celebrate such a wonderful British institution as the BBC Proms.

The Last Night of the Proms is broadcast on BBC One and BBC Radio 3.