Kicking off the concert with Richard Strauss’ epic Also sprach Zarathustra, followed closely by the Horrible Histories theme tune, Aurora Orchestra, the Kids Company Choir and Choirs from the Music Centre, led by conductor Nicholas Collon and presented by Louise Fryer, performed the best bits of the history of music at this year’s Family Prom.

© BBC/Chris Christodoulou
© BBC/Chris Christodoulou

First, our host Rattus Rattus, a strange yet loveable sewer rat, introduced Nicholas Collon and the separate sections of the orchestra, pointing out some lesser-known instruments like the sackbut, a trombone from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Then the Aurora Orchestra, with actors Matthew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond, dove right into some of Horrible Histories’ most popular songs.

Beckoning the Georgian era, The Four Georges started the concert off on the right foot. With four actors all dressed in towering white wigs, we all learned the real story about England’s Georgian kings:

George I: I was the sad one!

George II: And I was the bad one!

George III: I was the mad one!

George IV: And I was the fat one!

Of course, the Tudors and Henry VIII did not escape unscathed. In the famous song, Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Aurora Orchestra, the Kids Company Choir, Choirs from the Music Centre—and Henry VIII himself!— sang about the king’s vices: his beard, his belly and his six sorry wives. Complete with hand motions and a lively dance, the Kids Company Choir and Choirs from the Music Centre led the audience in the chorus:

Divorced, beheaded and died.
Divorced, beheaded, survived.

Chock-full of romance, violence and revenge, the Horrible Histories Proms was an exciting event. With Aurora Orchestra’s solo performance interspersed with the Horrible Histories wacky theme tunes, kids and parents alike learned when in English history some of the most iconic classical pieces were originally composed. From Camille Saint-Saëns’ death march, Danse Macabre, to the widely Romantic Romeo and Juliet by Sergey Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ pastoral Greensleeves to the epic Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner, Aurora Orchestra was fierce and lively throughout. Presenting more than a striking musical contrast, the musical programme fit nicely alongside the quirky Horrible Histories tunes and helped to place classical music’s greatest hits on a historical timeline.

The last piece—Horrible Histories’ Vikings—was the epitome of the afternoon’s Proms: a rock ballad performed by a troupe of Vikings and Death himself (played by Simon Farnaby), rocking out on his silver sparkling ax. With kids dancing in the stalls—and their parents singing along—Saturday afternoon proved to be a horribly brilliant BBC Proms.