BBC Proms 2021: This is the perfect opportunity to give classical music a try

Think you don’t like classical music? Try it, says Nick Hely-Hutchinson, ahead of the BBC Proms 2021

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason with his sister, pianist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason (Photo: BBC)

When was the first time you realised you liked cheese? You've always liked it?

Spinach, then. Liver? Avocados? Offal? Brussel sprouts? (Fair enough, you still don't like those.)

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Chances are, though, that a liking for one or all of these has come over time.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie - no trivialisation intended - are the chips of music. Nobody ever popped a chip into their mouth, chewed it over, weighed it all up, and after a lengthy period of deliberation concluded 'Hmm, quite like that, I suppose.'

And so it is with the musicians above: you can't help but love 'em.

But other styles of music, especially classical, creep into our senses with age and a maturity to experiment. It’s the abandonment of an almost congenital prejudice: Beatles, chips, sure. Classical music, kidneys, nah, just don't like the sound of it.

So without any rationale, which you simultaneously acknowledge, you then decide you're not going to even try it.

If you recognise yourself in this, the arrival of the BBC Proms concerts is an instant solution.

The largest festival of classical music opens this Friday (30 July) and runs for six weeks with 52 concerts.

For as little as £6, which is not much more than you would have to pay for a pint of beer in London, you can attend the much welcomed return of live concerts. The consumption and enjoyment will last a good deal longer than the pint, too, which you can always tuck away in the interval.

It’s time we stopped apologising for classical music. It is what it is and I have no truck for people who say, “I don’t like it” if they’ve never tried.

Nobody expects to like everything, that is the nature of our tastes. But if you like a good tune, and I still enjoy all the tunes of the groups I was brought up on, I can guarantee there will be something you will like in classical music.

There is no more accessible experience to classical music than the BBC Proms. And forget about doing the right thing or reacting ‘correctly’: music speaks to us all in different ways, so there is no such thing as a right response.

There are only two ‘don’ts’

Don’t cough between movements. There is absolutely no need to, and it’s a stupid habit we’ve all got into, which we can only hope Covid has now consigned for good. The musicians won’t, so we don’t need to, either.

Don’t be first to clap. The debate about clapping between movements will last as long as the one about capital punishment and there will be no persuading those with strong views either side. I don’t see anything wrong with it myself: Mozart would have been appalled if there had been silence. Just don’t be first, it avoids the risk of doing it at the wrong time.

There are plenty of thrilling concerts. Look out especially for 7,12,14 August and 9 September, to cite just a few.

And the best tip of all. Listen. Really listen. If classical music is still your Brussel Sprout after that, so be it. But at least you will have tried.

If you need a little persuasion before taking the plunge, try my recently launched podcast, perfectpitch.buzzsprout.com

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