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PROMS REPORT 2008

This is the first year of the new artistic director of the BBC Proms, Roger Wright. Many of the programs would have been organised or partly organised by his predecessor, so it is maybe a bit early to see definite trends, but as far as composers go, things seem to be improving (not hard to do!).

There are 117 composers featured, with 6 women (5%). Since 1989 when I have been taking count, this is equal top with 1999. In several other years there have been 5 women composers. The difference this time, is that 5 out of 6 women are featured in the main evening concerts. The other woman composer is in a popular weekend afternoon concert. In previous years many of the women composers were included in lunch time or late evening conerts, which have much smaller audiences.

There were 10 BBC commissions or co-commissions and 2 of these were women. This is no improvement on previous years, but commissions would have had to be organised before the change of director.

Conductors are still almost entirely male. This seems to be a problem generally, rather than in Proms programming. This year there was only one woman conductor, out of 55 (1.8%). The highest result so far since 1989 were 3 women conductors, but only one of those was in a main evening concert.

Instrumental soloists this year include 11 women out of 62 (18%). This is less than 2004 (22%) and 2005 (25.6%) but much better than 2006(14%) and 2007 (9.4%).

The women composers being featured this year, include a BBC Commission from Chen Yi to mark the opening of the Beijing Olympics on 8th August. Another BBC commission goes to the Scottish composer, Anna Meredith for a short piece for the last night of the Proms. As far as I know, this is the first time a woman composer has been featured on the last night, so good to think that the BBC has commissioned this. The other composers are Ethel Smyth, Grace Williams, Thea Musgrave, and a new folk arrangement from the folk artist, Kathryn Tickell.

The woman conductor is Emmanuelle Haim who conducts Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea. This is a production from Glyndebourne Opera, so would have been a Glyndebourne choice of conductor.

Jenny Fowler