BBC Proms are holding a Prom in virtual reality this year.
For the first time ever, VR will be seen at the BBC Proms in a new work by Anna Meredith and 59 Productions. Commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War, the project helps to bring some of the lesser known stories and history of the Great War to life, while enabling viewers to see and hear the BBC Proms in a completely new way.
The project comes in two iterations. Nothing to be Written is a seven-minute immersive experience inspired by one of the First World War’s primary communication modes, the ‘field postcard’.
The second is a 25-minute experience from ‘within’ the Royal Albert Hall featuring Anna Meredith’s recently premiered full score of Five Telegrams, co-commissioned by the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, and 14-18 NOW.
The VR Prom is a further iteration of the Five Telegrams project which formally launched the BBC Proms 2018 season. Meredith’s new work for orchestra, choir and projections explores the varied forms of communication from the front lines. Its second movement, entitled Field Postcard, forms the basis of the shorter VR experience, drawing on the talents of both the BBC Proms Youth Ensemble and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of their chief conductor, Sakari Oramo.
Nothing to be Written takes the viewer on a highly emotive journey, positioning them as the main protagonist in the narrative: civilians transported on the same journey fared by their loved-ones during World War I. The piece merges two worlds – the hallways across the country with families and friends waiting quietly for news, with the unrestrained violence of the trenches. Throughout the piece, an image of a field postcard remains the central thread.
To accompany Nothing to be Written, a full 25-minute, immersive experience has been developed to be previewed at the BBC Proms. Shaped entirely around the full score for Five Telegrams, the first four movements of the experience will place the user in the centre of the Royal Albert Hall. As the music plays, the walls and geometry of the building morph and change.
Recorded live on the First Night of the Proms, Five Telegrams has been captured in cutting-edge spatialised sound with very high quality ambisonics, offering audiences the opportunity to experience the composition in its entirety in maximum quality.
The landmark project brings together three BBC brands: the BBC Proms, BBC VR Hub and BBC Research & Development Audio Team.
David Pickard, Director, BBC Proms, says: “The BBC Proms broke new ground on the opening night of the Proms this year when we presented our first ever new commission combining both music and visual projections. Five Telegrams has already been seen by thousands of people at live events in London and Edinburgh and (hundreds of) thousands more on television and online. I am delighted that this latest VR incarnation will reach even wider audiences and add a further ground-breaking development to the project.”
It will receive its world premiere on Tuesday 21st August. The experience will take place at Beit Venues Imperial College Union, in the Metric Bar. Sessions will run from 7-11.30pm approx. See the BBC Proms website for details. The event is free but places are available on a first-come-first-served basis. It then travels to 14-18 NOW-linked events throughout the Autumn, followed by an international premiere at Raindance Film Festival. The experience has been developed for Oculus Go and will be available on public release to other major VR and BBC platforms later this year.