There will be plenty of Beethoven, Bernstein and Bach at the 2018 BBC Proms, but also a good helping of pagan-gospel, disco-punk, DIY indie and feminist rap. The festival is set to be more with it and edgy than ever before with a late-night prom celebrating the music of modern New York.
The Proms director, David Pickard, said it was part of his remit to explore the new in all forms of music. “It is contemporary music from across New York as it’s happening at the moment,” he said. “It is a very vibrant scene in terms of what people are writing, and it is boundary-crossing as well – there is a lot of experimentation going on.”
He said barriers were coming down across the music world and that the Proms should reflect that: “There is a fluidity there that hasn’t existed before, and I think it is partly to do with a younger listener who is less compartmentalised.”
The New York prom will be presented by Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra and will feature guests including the classically trained gospel revivalist Serpentwithfeet, the singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten and the dance collective Hercules and Love Affair.
The 2018 Proms will also mark a number of anniversaries, including the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which paved the way for universal suffrage. Proms organisers said 24 female composers would be featured this year – more, it is thought, than ever before.
Among the contemporary composers included are Anna Meredith, who has created a work to be premiered on the first night of the Proms, and Roxanna Panufnik, who will be part of the coveted last night.
After the successful staging last year of a prom outside London for the first time since 1930, when the event went to Hull, this year it will travel to the Drill Hall in Lincoln for a performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, written in 1918.
Other anniversaries marked during the eight-week festival will be the birth of Leonard Bernstein, with performances of West Side Story, On the Town and a re-creation of one of the two proms Bernstein conducted; the death of Claude Debussy; the end of the first world war; the death of Hubert Parry, composer of Jerusalem; and the death of Lili Boulanger, a composer well known to musicians but not the wider public.
“She died at 24 and left this small but brilliant legacy,” said Pickard. “She is someone who is known to conductors, but they rarely get the chance to perform her work.”
There will be more than 90 concerts, with around a dozen that are not strictly classical. This year that category includes a prom given over to the talents of the young jazz prodigy Jacob Collier, who made his name as a YouTube phenomenon; a prom celebrating music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; and a tango prom celebrating Argentine music, as well as tango’s less well-known variant in Finland.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the BBC Young Musician competition, there will be the first ever “young musician prom”, with 20 of its alumni including Nicola Benedetti, Michael Collins and Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Among the classical Proms debuts will be Geneva’s Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, in its centenary year; Teodor Currentzis and his ensemble MusicAeterna performing punked-up Beethoven; and the disabled-led ensemble BSO Resound.
Organisers said more than 100,000 tickets would be available at under £15, with standing (or “promming”) tickets costing £6 and every prom broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
• BBC Proms, 13 July-8 September