Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory have long been popular choices for British classical concerts. However, they have sparked a long and bitter debate in the last couple of days. At the beginning of the week, reports emerged claiming the patriotic songs were potentially going to be dropped from the BBC’s Last Night Of The Proms, due to their perceived association with colonialism and slavery.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson even waded into the row, saying it is time to stop “our cringing embarrassment” of British history.
However, the broadcaster ignored the criticism and has now said orchestral versions of the songs, but not the words, will be performed.
One Government source described the decision as “incredible” and signalled that ministers were taken aback by the decision because they had believed the BBC would back down and stick with tradition.
It is not the first time classical concerts have sparked controversy in Britain.
In 2018, an opera singer was asked to change her EU flag themed dress for a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
British soprano Anna Patalong sang in six performances of the Classical Spectacular concert.
On one night, Ms Patalong wore a sash and necklace featuring EU stars.
The show’s producer, Raymond Gubbay Ltd, encouraged her to wear another dress, as the outfit was “open to misinterpretation”.
Ms Patalong’s husband, the baritone Benedict Nelson, wrote on social media: “My wife was asked to change her dress from yellow and blue at the RAH as the colours were too provocative.”
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Ms Patalong reverted to the red dress for last night of the show.
The Classical Spectacular concert is described as “the UK’s most popular classical show” and has been running for 30 years.
The show’s finale creates an atmosphere similar to that at Last Night of the Proms, and features patriotic songs like Rule Britannia.
Ms Patalong’s dress was not the only way in which she showed her support for the EU during the concert.
Her husband shared a video of the soprano briefly singing the lyrics of Rule Britannia to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which is the basis of the EU’s Anthem of Europe.