Fantasia on British Sea Songs

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Fantasia on British Sea Songs or Fantasy on British Sea Songs is a piece of classical music arranged by Sir Henry Wood in 1905 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. It is a medley of British sea songs and for many years was seen as an indispensable item at the BBC's Last Night of the Proms concert. In 2008 it was dropped from the programme. It was expected to return in 2010 and again in 2011 but was not included in either final programme. It was reintroduced in 2012[1] but once again omitted in 2013.

Arrangement[edit]

Wood's arrangement comprised nine parts which follow the course of the battle from the point of view of a British sailor, starting with the call to arms, progressing through the death of a comrade, thoughts of home, and ending with a victorious return and the assertion that Britain will continue to 'rule the waves'. In recent years, with the development of concerts running simultaneously in different parts of Britain, the BBC has added Irish, Scottish and Welsh songs which have obscured Wood's original 'plot'.

The fantasia commences with a series of six naval bugle calls and their responses. These calls were traditionally used to convey orders on a naval warship. The first call is Admiral's salute, call five is Prepare to ram and the final call is Quick double, extend and close. In 2005, the bugle calls were restored to the fantasia after a long absence, although Ye Spanish Ladies was removed, replaced by the Welsh, Scottish and Irish songs, arranged by Bob Chilcott: Ar Hyd y Nos, The Skye Boat Song and Danny Boy.

Rule, Britannia! was originally included in the Fantasia, but for many years up to the 2000 Last Night of the Proms and in the 2012 Last Night of the Proms, it had been performed in the arrangement by Sir Malcolm Sargent, with a noted opera singer to encourage the audience to sing the refrain. From 2002 to 2007, the BBC reverted to the original arrangement that Sir Henry Wood made for the Fantasia, performing just one verse with chorus for audience participation.[2] In 2009 the original Arne arrangement was used.

Instrumentation[edit]

Wood scored the fantasia for one piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, one English horn, three clarinets in B-Flat, two bassoons, one contrabassoon; six horns in F, four trumpets in B-Flat, four trombones, one euphonium, one tuba; a percussion section that includes timpani, tambourine, glockenspiel, side drum, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle and cymbals; one organ; two harps and strings. Wood also included an offstage horn on the left, as well as an offstage trumpet and an offstage side drum on the right.

Performance during the Last Night of the Proms[edit]

Crowd participation is often noted in the Fantasia performance during the Last Night of the Proms. Mock tears were shed by the audience during Tom Bowling, feet were stamped in time to the introduction of Jack's the Lad, a familiar tune which gets faster and faster, being followed by the honking of hooters and a crescendoing clapping during the climax. Occasionally the orchestra have been known to deliberately perform this part out of tune in response to the audience. The frantic pace was then juxtaposed with the solemn humming with Home, Sweet Home and then the whistling of the melody of See, The Conquering Hero Comes. This culminated in the "prommers" singing the refrain of Rule, Britannia!. During the various solos, the performing artist often ad libbed their own variation on the melody and various parts of the Fantasia were often repeated at the request of the audience, whose participation was usually encouraged by light-hearted mockery on the part of the conductor.

Movements[edit]

  1. Bugle Calls
  2. The Anchor's Weighed
  3. The Saucy Arethusa
  4. Tom Bowling
  5. Jack's The Lad (Hornpipe)
  6. Farewell and Adieu, Ye Spanish Ladies
  7. Home, Sweet Home
  8. See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes
  9. Rule, Britannia!

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBC: Prom 76: Last Night of the Proms 2012
  2. ^ "BBC - Proms - Henry Wood (1869-1944) - Fantasia on British Sea Songs (with additional numbers arranged by Bob Chilcott)". Programme notes on the Sea Songs Fantasy on the BBC Proms website. BBC. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 

External links[edit]