Thursday, September 07, 2017

Sing along

The Promenade Concerts were inaugurated on 10 August 1895 in the Queen's Hall in Langham Place, close to where later Broadcasting House was built. Traditionally the last night of the Proms closes with British patriotic pieces. This sequence traditionally includes Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (to part of which Land of Hope and Glory is sung) and Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs, followed by Thomas Arne's Rule, Britannia!. The concert concludes with Hubert Parry's rousing arrangement of Blake’s Jerusalem and the national anthem.
William Blake was the subject last week of an episode of the BBC Radio 4 series Beyond BeliefThe guests discussed how the poem of a fiery non-conformist has become the beloved anthem of such disparate groups of people, from the happily patriotic Promenaders to the far-right extremist of the English Defence League and the Women's Institute, the latter as ever 'hors catégorie'. By coincidence, at roughly the same time I found and saved the illustration embedded above. It's another expression of quintessential Englishness, insular exceptionalism. The railway poster dates back to a time when exploring mainland Europe was an option only for the intrepid and the well-off and there was something daunting, exotic and even potentially menacing about our nearest neighbours who we preferred to speak of as comprising The Continent.

Of course, we've come a long way since then, have we not?

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