The world divides into those who regard Purcell as Britain's greatest composer, and those who award the title to Britten; but if anyone ever asked me, I should nominate Eric Coates. Wednesday's main Prom was advertised as a concert of British Light Music, although the programme leaned toward the heavier side of the topic. A year or two ago, I attended a pre-Prom talk on Mahler, where someone described his music in these terms: "It's a beautiful day outside; I think I'll go and kill myself". In so many ways British Light Music is the antidote: "Things may look a bit grim, but I'll sit down, have a nice cup of tea, listen to some music on the Light Programme, and somehow it won't seem so bad after all". This was the essence of the talk, with Simon Heffer and Andrew O'Hagan, on this occasion; although opinions differed as to whether it was rock 'n' roll or television that killed it off.
The concert itself began with some unfamiliar works: Bantock's The Pierrot of the Minute and Elgar's Nursery Suite. I can see why they fitted the bill, although I wouldn't describe them as anything special. Noriko Ogawa and Kathryn Stott joined the BBC Concert Orchestra and Barry Wordsworth for Arnold's spirited Concerto for two pianos (three hands). I wouldn't consider this a particularly good fit for light music, but it was great fun, especially the final movement.
The second half was probably more along the expected lines: Walton's Crown Imperial, Coates' The Three Elizabeths, Arnold's English Dances, Set 1, and Langford's Say it with Music medley. I certainly couldn't identify all the tunes in the final piece, though Barwick Green, Calling All Workers and I think By the Sleepy Lagoon featured.