Royal Albert Hall, London
Business was nearly back to usual for a high-spirited final Prom with lively soloists Stuart Skelton and accordionist Ksenija Sidorova; while it was the impact of Brexit rather than Covid that was a focus of protest
The Last Night of this year’s Proms marked a return to something akin to its usual form: the high spirits, the patriotism and jingoism, the flags, balloons and bunting. Yet this was also a Last Night in which the pandemic made its presence very much felt. There were no Proms in the Park, though prerecorded contributions were beamed in from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Social distancing meant that the 18-strong BBC Singers were joined in the second half by 19 members of the BBC Symphony Chorus – a tacit reminder that while a packed, largely unmasked audience can bellow its head off in Land of Hope and Glory, full choirs still remain cautiously inhibited.
This year’s Promenaders charities, acknowledged in conductor Sakari Oramo’s speech, include Help Musicians’ Covid 19 hardship fund, a crucial source of aid for so many musicians who are now struggling to survive. The elephant in the room, meanwhile, was yet again Brexit, even though many people in the auditorium were wearing EU hats or carrying EU flags, the latter distributed by campaigners outside the Hall protesting against the curtailment of freedom of movement that has so catastrophically impacted on performers’ lives.