Revamped Proms coverage will feature ‘extraordinary young talent’, says BBC

Award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam is among a slew of young talent handed presenting duties this year.
Award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam is among a slew of young talent handed presenting duties this year.

The BBC boss behind the corporation’s coverage of The Proms has said classical music is experiencing “halcyon days of extraordinary young talent”.

Jan Younghusband, BBC Music head of TV commissioning, has announced that a new generation of young musicians will take presenting roles during this year’s coverage.

Award-winning saxophonist and BBC Radio 3 presenter Jess Gillam, 21, and pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, sister of royal wedding cellist Sheku, are among those joining the line-up.

Isata Kanneh-Mason Decca signing
Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason (Decca Records/PA)

Scottish classical violinist Nicola Benedetti, 31, and Egyptian soprano Fatma Said will join the main presenters to offer their insight.

Younghusband told PA: “We are in the halcyon days of extraordinary young talent coming through.

“This generation of young people, they’ve grown up with the internet, they are very savvy on camera, they can speak, they are not shy.

“When I started in classical music you wouldn’t have dreamt of asking the artist to talk before he played.

Nicola Benedetti leads school masterclass
Violinist Nicola Benedetti (Chris Radburn/PA)

“But Sheku can talk before he plays, Jess Gillam is extraordinary in that way, and Nicola Benedetti has presented many television programmes for us.

“This has made me realise that actually we should put the young voices forward for young voices to hear.”

BBC Radio One DJ Clara Amfo, Welsh singer and DJ Cerys Matthews and Canadian conductor Kwame Ryan will also make their BBC Proms presenting debuts.

Younghusband said she hoped the move would show the extent of youth involvement in classical music.

Brit Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London
Clara Amfo at the Brit Awards (Ian West/PA)

She said: “There is some perception that the classical music audience is older but the very exciting thing is that there are more and more young people playing musical instruments.

“There are so many confident musicians. They want to speak and they have something to say, and we are going to give them the platform to say it.”

Coverage of the BBC Two Proms Encore magazine show will be hosted from outside the Royal Albert Hall in a specially constructed bandstand next to the Albert Memorial.

Younghusband, who also oversees the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage, said the move mirrored how it broadcasted from the Somerset festival, from an outdoor hub looking down on the site.

Coverage of the Proms Encore will also include topical reports, including Reverend Richard Coles in conversation with Notre Dame Cathedral’s organist Olivier Latry.

Katie Derham, Suzy Klein, Tom Service, Danielle de Niese and Petroc Trelawny are also returning as presenters.

The changes come after Livewire, an independent production company, was chosen to produce the coverage for the first time.

The move follows the corporation’s charter agreement under which the Government asked for all existing BBC Studios network TV output to be put out to competitive tender over the next 11 years.