Flag waving, swaying, joining of hands, the Last Night of the Proms is one of the only events in the classical music calendar where strict rules on audience silence are broken. This year it is the 118th Last Night, but the first concert that will be conducted by a woman. Marian Alsop will lead the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a programme of well- known uplifting classical songs, such as 'Rule Britannia' and 'Jerusalem'.
The Last Night is one of the more traditional music events throughout the year, filling the Royal Albert Hall and having many more viewers watching on TV. However with all the female popular artists around these days, as improbable as it appears, a woman has never been chosen to lead the nation's classical music fans for such a well-loved tradition. How then has it taken so long to get a woman in the conducting stool? And more troublingly where do we look to provide a typical example of women in the modern music industry? In fact the answer can be summed up with four names; Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Gaga. To most people this is what women in the music industry means. Not that I have anything against these women, they do what they do well, but it is worrying that they are now accepted as representative of women in music and in particular live music.
These are women that use their sexuality or more simply boobs and bum to shock. Miley Cyrus' for example recently delivered a very explicit X-rated performance at the VMAs. She has defended this by saying that she wanted to 'make history', proving that women are not working to stand out through their music, more by how many times they can shake their bits. This bumping and grinding in the name of music is unfortunately how many people see a women's role within modern music. All of the above women have been shown to mime in gigs and frequently use auto-tuned microphones in live performance and rely mainly on their nakedness and risqué dance routines to attract audiences.
Conductor Marian Alsop became the first female Musical Director of an American orchestra in 2007, since then she has continued to show that women can excel in music without having to compromise themselves. The Last Night of the Proms will also show case women under other spotlights with Joyce DiDonato as the mezzo-soprano soloist and a world premiere by female composer Anna Clyne, demonstrating that women do not have to flash their flesh to be successful in the arts.
Hopefully even if just for a fleeting moment Saturdays Prom will show the world that women are ready to put their clothes back on, stop 'twerking' and provide good role-models for future women in music.