This medley of British sea songs was arranged by Sir Henry Wood in 1905 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
For many years the British Sea Songs have been an indispensable item at the BBC's Last Night of the Proms concert. First performed by Henry Wood and the Queen's Hall Orchestra at a Promenade Concert in October 1905. The original arrangement contained multiple sections that followed the course of the Battle of Trafalgar from the point of view of a British sailor, starting with the call to arms, progressing through the death of a comrade, thoughts of home, and ending with a victorious return and the assertion that Britain will continue to rule the waves. The opening series of naval bugle calls and their responses are taken from the calls traditionally used to convey orders on a naval warship, including the Admiral's salute, followed by Action, General Assembly, Landing Party, Prepare to Ram and finally Quick, Double, Extend and Close. Sir Henry Joseph Wood (1869–1944) 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". These concerts offered 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. 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. As well as similar work for Richard D'Oyly Carte's opera companies on the works of Arthur Sullivan and others. 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. Wood declined the chief conductorships of both 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 Robert Newman greatly improved access to classical music and helped raised the standard of orchestral playing and nurture the taste of the general public, presenting a vast repertoire of music spanning four centuries.