Sir Henry Joseph Wood CH (3 March 1869 – 19 August 1944) was an English conductor best known for his association with London's annual series of promenade concerts, known as the Proms. He conducted them for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences. After his death, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as the "Henry Wood Promenade Concerts", although they continued to be generally referred to as "the Proms".Born in modest circumstances to parents who encouraged his musical talent, Wood started his career as an organist. During his studies at the Royal Academy of Music, he came under the influence of the voice teacher Manuel Garcia and became his accompanist. After similar work for Richard D'Oyly Carte's opera companies on the works of Arthur Sullivan and others, Wood became the conductor of a small operatic touring company. He was soon engaged by the larger Carl Rosa Opera Company. One notable event in his operatic career was conducting the British premiere of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in 1892.From the mid-1890s until his death, Wood focused on concert conducting. He was engaged by the impresario Robert Newman to conduct a series of promenade concerts at the Queen's Hall, offering a mixture of classical and popular music at low prices. The series was successful, and Wood conducted annual promenade series until his death in 1944. By the 1920s, Wood had steered the repertoire entirely to classical music. When the Queen's Hall was destroyed by bombing in 1941, the Proms moved to the Royal Albert Hall.Wood declined the chief conductorships of the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestras, believing it his duty to serve music in the United Kingdom. In addition to the Proms, he conducted concerts and festivals throughout the country and also trained the student orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music. He had an enormous influence on the musical life of Britain over his long career: he and Newman greatly improved access to classical music, and Wood raised the standard of orchestral playing and nurtured the taste of the public, presenting a vast repertoire of music spanning four centuries.
The Proms, more formally known as The BBC Proms, or The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC, is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts and other events held annually, predominantly in the Royal Albert Hall in London. Founded in 1895, each season currently consists of more than 70 concerts in the Albert Hall, a series of chamber concerts at Cadogan Hall, additional Proms in the Park events across the United Kingdom on the last night, and associated educational and children's events. In 2009 the total number of concerts reached 100 for the first time. In the context of classical music festivals, Jiří Bělohlávek has described the Proms as "the world's largest and most democratic musical festival".Prom is short for promenade concert, a term which originally referred to outdoor concerts in London's pleasure gardens, where the audience was free to stroll around while the orchestra was playing. In fact this tradition has been revived in parks and stately homes around the UK at promenade concerts such as the Battle Proms. In the context of the BBC Proms Promming now refers to the use of the standing areas inside the hall (the arena and gallery) for which ticket prices are much lower than for the reserved seating. Single-concert standing Promming tickets for either the Arena or Gallery can be bought only on the day of the concert, which can give rise to long queues for well-known artists or works. Proms concert-goers, particularly those who stand, are sometimes described as "Promenaders", but are most commonly referred to as "Prommers". Prommers can buy full-season tickets instead for guaranteed entry to every concert in the season (until 20 minutes before the concert is due to start), although not the assurance of a particular standing position. A number of Prommers are particularly keen in their attendance. In 1997, one programme in the BBC documentary series Modern Times covered this dedicated following of enthusiasts.