Land of Hope and Glory finally gets to Number One – 119 years after it was written…. what’s going on? This week’s most bizarre news piece was the curious case of the song Land of Hope and Glory (the Vera Lynn version) going to the top of the UK’s iTunes charts.
Since the song is most often associated with the Royal Albert Hall, many were confused by seeing this 119-year old classic sitting at Number One. Indeed, the most common reaction so far seems to be one of ‘WTF’? So, we at Lilyfields have decided to unpack the strange story of this most quintessential British music hall classic. Also, why it has become so controversial in the past few weeks, suddenly shooting to the top of the pops.
The music to the song that became Land of Hope and Glory was written in 1901 by the composer Elgar, with lyrics added a year later by AC Benson. Almost immediately, the song became an integral part of the Proms. This 8-week long series of summer concerts has taken place in South Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall since 1895 and tends to be associated with patriotic flag-waving. The BBC has broadcasted the events every year. The Last Night of the Proms commands the largest audience of any arts programme on British TV.
Of course, patriotic songs like Land of Hope and Glory and Rule! Britannia work particularly well at the Proms. Now this harmless display of nationalist fervour is at the heart of the current controversy. Patriotism has fallen out of fashion, and the BBC panicked.
In the UK, a spring of BLM protests (that were undeniably just and urgently needed!), quickly morphed into a summer of wokeness against any and all displays of patriotism. The statue of slave owner Edward Colston in Bristol was pulled down in June. A further statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes outside Oxford University has been hastily put on the review list.
These images of parts of the crowds of protesters destroying famous landmarks seem to have panicked the BBC, which announced that this year’s Proms broadcast would see Land of Hope and Glory and Rule! Britannia played as instrumental versions only, with none of the potentially contentious lyrics. The reaction from most of the country was – as expected – not a positive one. Politicians such as Nigel Farage and even PM Boris Johnson have been extremely critical of the decision. Actor Laurence Fox called for people to purchase the Dame Vera Lynn-sung version on iTunes, forcing it to the top spot in the music charts. It seems that this misstep could kill off the BBC as we know it. The BBC is known worldwide for its quality programming, and the unique way it is funded by licence payers. Many, like our Brazilian escorts, love shows such as Death in Paradise, Strictly Come Dancing and Doctor Who. But for decades now, the BBC has been accused by a large portion of the British population (as well as at least half the media) of being too liberal leaning. The key criticism aimed at the corporation is how it is funded, with everyone who owns a TV set obliged to pay up. Brexit, and the ascent of Boris Johnson to the head of government has given this movement to ‘defund the Beeb’ teeth.
The reaction of the BBC just adds to the feeling of mistrust. With petitions for parliament to discuss changing the licence fee, it’s surely just a matter of time before the BBC is restructured, forcing it to focus on a more commercial offering
Without jumping into either side of the debate, it has to be said that the more popular BBC shows that are loved around the world tend to be commercial successes anyway. And you can chose a great Latin London date to keep you company watching them.