Prom 70: Desert Island Discs 70th Anniversary, Royal Albert Hall

I try to attend at least one night of the Proms each year… this annual festival of music is one of the many things that makes London so special in the summertime. The line-up this year featured a glorious list of high calibre performers and delicious programming. On September 3rd fans and followers of Desert Island Discs assembled in the great Albert Hall to listen to an evening of the famous radio show’s most popular castaway choices.

Most people have some kind of affection for Desert Island Discs. The show is a permanent Sunday morning fixture in my family household, and it truly makes me smile, wince or weep every weekend. Kirsty Young manages to successfully extract touching stories alongside an album of beloved tracks from the world’s most familiar names. The show is unique as it is purely for enjoyment with no endorsements or advertising for the guests, no one gets paid instead it is an honour to be invited on the show. I always thought, when I was younger, that the ultimate dream was to be successful enough to be on Desert Island Discs, only then have you really ‘made it’ in your field!

The audience were treated to a star studded evening of guest appearances and Desert Island favourites. Shipwrecked celebrities included Darcy Bussell, David Attenborough, Sir Michael Parkinson, and Patricia Routledge. Each voicing their passion for music, recalling memories and chatting to presenter Kirsty Young. We listened to classic pieces like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, tracks which have been chosen frequently on the show.

The compilation was played by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by the energetic and joyful Keith Lockhart. The orchestra played with compassion, effortlessly excelling in every style of music. Soloists included the stunningly voiced Ailish Tynan who sung two Puccini arias exquisitely, and virtuosic pianist Peter Donohoe who illustrated complete command over the instrument and played with a relaxed and confident tone.

As an added bonus for the night, we welcomed Bryn Terfel as a last minute performer; due to illness Sir Willard White had to drop out. He was a witty addition to the night, singing Coleridge-Taylor’s scenes from ‘The Song of Hiawatha,’ filling the auditorium with his rich and captivating voice. The night finished with the jubilant world premiere of ‘Desert Island Hits’ and Coates’ ‘The Dam Busters’.

Unlike most Prom evenings, the selection of music was not specialist, instead we listened to a diverse collection of compositions from every era. It was the best way to celebrate this wonderful radio show’s 70th anniversary and to remember it’s incredible legacy.