BBC Proms to broadcast from Hull as part of City of Culture celebrations

The BBC Proms
The BBC Proms

The BBC Proms may be as much part of the London scene as the Changing of the Guard.

Yet for the first time ever the largest music festival in the world is on the move outside the capital - to Hull.

Celebrating its spot in the limelight as City of Culture 2017, the Royal Northern Sinfonia will be performing a concert marking 300 years since Handel's Water Music was first famously performed on the River Thames.

On July 17 1717 George 1 was wafted down the river from Chelsea to Whitehall on his golden Royal barge, crammed with dukes and duchesses, as 50 musicians played on a vessel nearby.

He enjoyed the soothing music so much he asked the suites to be played three times over the course of the round trip.

In its anniversary year the orchestra will perform in dry dock, which has been converted into an open air theatre with a glorious vista of river and sky, at the point where the river Hull meets the mighty Humber.

With a capacity of just 350 - although people will be able to look on from various vantage points including a nearby bridge - Stage@theDock is tiny compared to the Royal Albert Hall, which has 6,000 seats.

There will be three performances on Saturday July 22, with the repertoire covering every maritime theme, from storms and shipwrecks to calm seas and seductive sirens.

It will include Telemann's Water Music Overture, Delius's Summer Night on the River and Mendelssohn's Calm and Prosperous Voyage. Suites no 2 and 3 of Handel's Water Music will be performed.

If the weather doesn't perform to cue, then there will be a canopy to keep the rain out. "We are playing excerpts from Grace Williams's Sea Sketches - one of which we don't want, which is 'High Wind'", said conductor Nicholas McGegan."The other 'Calm Sea in Summer' we prefer."

Director of the proms David Pickard said when they'd been thinking about the anniversary of Handel's Water Music it occurred to them that Hull was City of Culture - and it had water: "We came up here and thought it's perfect.

"It's a very special year for Hull - and we were coming not to the obvious place. We are not in Manchester, Edinburgh or Cardiff - we are in Hull."

The performance may well set a new trend for the Proms leaving London - although Mr Pickard said coming to Hull for the three performances was a huge logistical and financial investment.

This year the Proms will also play at Southwark Cathedral, Wilton's Music Hall and Peckham multi-storey car park - as well as contemporary music at the Tate.

Period performance specialist Mr McGegan has worked with the Gateshead-based Royal Northern Sinfonia for more than a decade. Mr McGegan - two of whose ancestors were organists at Beverley Minster in the 18th and 19th centuries - said: "It's the first Prom outside London in 123 years - it has taken a while.

"It's the UK City of Culture and it's great that the Proms come to Hull rather than the other way round.

"It will be the first one forever - and cities will be lining up to do one next year."

He added: "The RNS has a great feeling for musical style - whether it is of the 18th century, or something more recent.

"They always play with such joy and elan. I'm really looking forward to an exciting trip."

Tickets - £6 - go on sale on May 13. A limited number of promming tickets will be available to book on the day.

As conductor from the first concert the name Sir Henry Wood is most closely associated with The Proms, now in its 123rd season.

Over eight weeks, daily orchestral classical music concerts and other events are staged mostly at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The first Prom was held by the impresario Robert Newman on August 10 1895 in the Queen's Hall in Langham Place.

Newman's aim was to " train the public by easy stages. Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music." The 2017 Proms will run from Friday July 14 to Saturday September 9.