Alton's Last night of the Proms first began in 2006 and is run in partnership with Alton Town Council and Alton Concert Orchestra. Below is a brief history of how the
event began from Chris Leggett, Chairman of Alton Concert Orchestra:
“I have found a copy of the programme from 2007. It was a printed on a page of double-sided A4 paper, far simpler than today’s full colour approx. 24 page version, but the format of the performance was much the same as this year’s concert. David Budd conducted and Christine Meers led the Alton Concert Orchestra; ‘Britannia’ was sung by Pippa Mills and Alton Community Choir was also invited to participate. The Town Mayor, Cllr. Mrs. Robyn Fitzer gave everyone a welcome, and the traditional ‘Last Night of the Proms’ pieces were played in the second half of the concert, just as they are now, with the audience words printed on the programme. In the first half of the concert, the orchestra performed Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” Overture and three movements from Beethoven’s First Symphony.
But how did this tradition start? I can recall a phone call in late 2006 from Alton Town Council asking if the Alton Concert
Orchestra would be interested in bringing an open-air classical music concert to Alton…. to which I said yes.
I put the phone down and then thought “What have I done; how are we going to pull this one off”. We had never performed outdoors before, let alone in front of an audience which would number in the mid-hundreds, but we were resolved to take on the challenge despite the understandable nervousness surrounding the occasion. There were also many practical difficulties to overcome from the Town Council’s viewpoint, but by working closely together and trusting each other to deliver their own part of the bargain we built the solid foundation for the event you see and hear today. The need for a good sound system was spotted after that first concert, and Dave Tigg put in microphones and speakers in 2008 and he has enhanced the amplification system over the intervening years. Paul LeFeuvre then joined us to compere the event and audience numbers soon swelled into the thousands.
Playing in front of such a happy crowd of people is truly exhilarating and has helped enormously with the development of the orchestra. We are delighted that Alton Town Council continues to organise and support such a wonderful community event. The only thing that could really make it better now is the guarantee of perfect weather every year, but the show has always gone on. Even when it poured all evening in 2012 there was a hardy audience of some 300 people, sheltering under brollies and in tents. You, the audience, make this a very special occasion.”
Chris Leggett, Chairman of Alton Concert Orchestra