Sir Henry Joseph Wood
was an English conductor best known for his association with London’s annual series of promenade concerts known as The Proms.
Henry Wood conducted The Proms for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences.
After his death in 1944, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, although they continued to be generally referred to as The Proms.
In the summer of 1965 (when I was about fourteen) my dad decided we should go to The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
We had a day ticket and caught the train from Peterborough railway station on August 19th and were in the capital a couple of hours later. We did some tourist stuff and then after a Lyons Corner House for something to eat we headed to South Kensington for the concert.
We were overawed by the vastness of the Albert Hall and by the size of the audience, which was far greater than anything we’d experienced before.
The programme started with Neville Marriner directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a Handel concerto while he played the violin. Impressive!
This was followed by the premiere of Michael Tippett’s piano concerto conducted by the composer himself. The soloist was John Ogden and the music was execrable.
After the interval Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers in a performance of “The Planets”.
We’d been listening to this on a gramophone record for weeks and loved every minute.
Thanks very much, Sir Henry Wood, for a wonderful experience and a very Happy 149th Birthday.
This is the only clip I can find of Sir Henry actually conducting. It’s the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performing Vaughan William’s Serenade to Music in 1938.
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