Just last month, while waiting in line for an ice cream at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, I overheard a lady commenting to a friend that her family had been enjoying the MSO free concerts for over 40 years. She had been in attendance for more than 20, other than the year her husband had booked a February holiday to the U.K. without consulting her. A mistake, I imagine, he’ll not be making again!
Such is the tradition of the MSO free summer concerts; a season enjoyed by generations of families; a first opportunity for many to hear a live classical performance, and a festival which, when firmly pencilled in to a calendar, all other activity is organised around! From the other side of the podium it’s an opportunity for the Orchestra, true to the vision of the late Sidney Myer (and continued by his family’s foundation), to give back to the Melbourne community.
It was in 1894 – a mere 35 years before the first MSO free, open-air concert – the manager of the Queen’s Hall, London, Mr Robert Newman, proposed to the young conductor Mr Henry Wood, his plans of a series of concerts to be held over the English summer. Newman hoped the concerts “…would educate the people about classical music and hopefully make it more popular.” And so, with Mr Wood at the helm, the first of the Proms, or as they were then known “Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts” was performed in London on August 10, 1895.
One-hundred and eighteen years and much history later, the Proms (now the BBC Proms) has become one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals! Consisting of over 70 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, The Proms encompasses symphonic staples performed by major British and international orchestras, to contemporary jazz and pop – even once a world premiere of Dr. Who in Concert. Similar to that of the MSO’s free concerts, there is truly an offering for everyone, regardless of musical taste, or knowledge!