Sir Henry Wood's Hornpipe

Tonight is the last night of the 'Proms' - the Promenade Concerts, a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall which runs through the summer every year. They were originally founded by conductor Henry J. Wood (left) in 1895, and so called because a section of the audience would be standing (cheap tickets). Before the second world war they were held at Queen's Hall in Upper Regent Street: that venue was destroyed in bombing, and after 1945 the concerts moved to the Royal Albert Hall and are now run by the BBC. The whole arena area is cleared of seats and is usually packed with standing concert-goers: particularly on the last night, which is a light-hearted affair with much flag-waving, funny hats, and audience cheers and participation (between the items).

Traditionally, one of the items in the second half is Wood's arrangement of British Sea Songs, ending with 'Rule Britannia' and including the famous Sailor's Hornpipe. This starts quietly and is supposed to accelerate towards the end: but it's become traditional for the audience to clap and stamp along with it - Wood only allowed this in the last chorus but nowadays the stamping starts almost at once and the whole thing becomes a race between the audience and the orchestra.

This is a pity, and it's interesting to hear how Wood himself conducted it. The recording is of course a studio one, not live: it's a masterly demonstration of orchestral control with the accelerando reaching its climax only in the last few bars.

The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Sir Henry Wood: part of Columbia DX 954, recorded in November 1939.

Book: Henry J. Wood, Maker of the Proms by Arthur Jacobs

Click here to listen to the recording.

Posted: Sat - September 9, 2006 at 12:18 PM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM