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The BBC has said Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory will now be sung by a select group of vocalists during the Last Night Of The Proms.

The broadcaster had previously announced the songs would only feature as instrumental versions following criticism over perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery.

The Proms is watched live by an audience of over 6000
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The Proms is watched live by an audience of more than 6,000 and is filmed at the Royal Albert Hall

Proms conductor Dalia Stasevska also denied being involved in the decision-making of how the songs will be performed during the event, adding that she and her family had been bombarded with “threats and abuse” during the row.

More than 100 singers normally perform Rule Britannia! – but a spokesperson for the BBC Proms said the change in the arrangement this year was due to the coronavirus outbreak.

They said in a statement: “The pandemic means a different Proms this year and one of the consequences, under COVID-19 restrictions, is we are not able to bring together massed voices.

“For that reason we took the artistic decision not to sing Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory in the hall.

“We have been looking hard at what else might be possible and we have a solution.

“Both pieces will now include a select group of BBC singers. This means the words will be sung in the hall, and as we have always made clear, audiences will be free to sing along at home. While it can’t be a full choir, and we are unable to have audiences in the hall, we are doing everything possible to make it special and want a Last Night truly to remember.

“We hope everyone will welcome this solution. We think the night itself will be a very special moment for the country – and one that is much needed after a difficult period for everyone.

“It will not be a usual Last Night, but it will be a night not just to look forward to, but to remember.”

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden responded to the news on Twitter and said: “Pleased to see common sense has prevailed on the BBC Proms.”

The proms are usually attended by around 6,000 people, however this year live performances will take place without an audience.

A suggestion that the traditional anthems may not be featured this year sparked fury among commentators, with even Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighing in on the debate.

When asked about the story, a Number 10 spokesman said last week: “It is obviously a decision for the organiser of the Proms and the BBC.

“But the prime minister has previously set out his position on these issues and has been clear that, while he understands the strong emotions in this, we need to tackle the substance of issues and not the symbols.”

Rule, Britannia! – strongly associated with the Royal Navy – is deemed problematic by some because of Britain’s role in the slave trade.

It has lyrics such as Britons “never shall be slaves”, and “while thou shalt flourish great and free, the dread and envy of them all”.

Land Of Hope And Glory features the music of Edward Elgar and the lyrics of Arthur Benson, including “Thine Empire shall be strong” and “God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet”.

The Proms were founded in 1895, and the BBC has run the concerts since 1927. Broadcast on TV, radio and iPlayer, the final night normally attracts tens of millions of viewers and listeners around the UK.

The Last Night of the Proms takes place on 12 September.



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